I was listening to an episode of the Afford Anything podcast recently, in which presenter Paula Pant interviewed Morgan Housel, the author of The Psychology of Money. Inspired by the death of two friends as a teenager, Housel talked about ‘tail risks’, that is things that are low-risk, but high-impact.
Listening to this reminded me of a man I met recently who told me “I don’t need to write a Will right now”, despite the fact he has five young children. Speaking literally, of course nobody needs to write a Will, in the same way that nobody needs to wear shoes when they go outside. However if you didn’t wear shoes outside, at best your feet would hurt, or worse you’d suffer damage from them being wet and cold.
Most of us will have house insurance, in case of burglary, fire or flood. These events are not likely to happen, but if they do happen, they would have a huge impact on our lives. Or we have fully-comp car insurance, so our car can be repaired if we cause an accident or we can use a courtesy car while ours is repaired from being hit. Again, accidents are rare. We don’t need to have house insurance or fully-comp car insurance, but many of us have it anyway.
Despite the cliches of “Live for today” or “Live like you’ll die tomorrow”, most of us will not die tomorrow. But we could – we could be in a car accident, or suffer a health trauma. It’s not likely, but it is possible, and so we should take steps to guard against the impact of it on our families. Life insurance to pay off the mortgage and provide a replacement income is one step.
Another is to write a Will, so that our families don’t have any more stress than is necessary in sorting out our affairs. A Will defines who should inherit what from your estate, and in most cases will prevent legal action from people claiming part of your estate. By appointing executors, you give trusted relatives or friends the power to administer your estate, rather than them having to go to court (and potentially arguing in court) to get this power.
If you have young children, a Will is the only way to secure their upbringing if they were to be left without both parents before reaching age 18. Yes, that’s not likely to happen, but if it did, not having a Will leaves your children’s upbringing to the lottery of the courts and social services – and I for one would not want to blindly trust that they would make a decision I would agree with.
Making a Will takes a little time and effort, and if it’s done by a proper trained, regulated and insured professional then you will have to pay for it, but once your Will is valid, you won’t need to worry about it anymore. It should last for a long time, if not for the rest of your life, unless your circumstances change.