Karen Walsh: Are you one of the 50% without a will?

Did you know that Martin Luther King died without leaving a will?
Karen Walsh: Are you one of the 50% without a will?

As a civil rights activist who faced deaths threats regularly and who would have been viewed as a prudent family man, it came as a surprise to many.

But it came as no surprise that his estate and assets were fought over for many years after his death, because he didn’t leave a will.

The late actor Heath Ledger did have a will.

However, it was not updated and as a result of this, his daughter Matilda was left out of his will completely.

In Ireland, 50% of people have not made a will.

Perhaps you have made a will many years ago, when your children were young, whereby you appointed guardians to look after them in the event that you and your spouse died.

Your children are now grown up, finished college and maybe even have children of their own and the will has not been changed. Does this sound like you? If it does, you need to review your will.

Making a will in Ireland is probably one of the most important matters to attend to as you grow older.

Every person, even if young, who has significant assets or who owns a house or land should make a will. Every person with a child or children should have a will.

Five reasons why you should make a will:


In a will, you appoint an executor, being a competent person you know and trust to pay your debts and carry out your wishes after your death in a timely and efficient manner.

If you do not have a will, the law decides who is entitled to administer your estate.


Without the will, your property will be distributed according to the terms of the Succession Act, 1965, which may not be reflective of your wishes.

This could result in a person you love dearly getting nothing, and someone you do not even like getting a large slice of your estate.


In a will, you may also leave your property to your family in a tax-efficient manner to minimise or even eliminate totally the amount of Inheritance Tax the government takes.


If you have minor children, then the will establishes a trust fund for their benefit and appoints guardians of your choice to look after them.


If you do not have a will, are single or separated, and living with a partner, your partner may find him or herself without a roof over their head and without any share in your estate.

When a person dies without making a will, the rules of intestacy apply, governing who is entitled to receive a person’s property, should they die.

The rules set out a list of people who are entitled to receive shares in the deceased’s property, as well as the amount of these shares and the order in which they are entitled to receive them.

For example, if you die leaving a spouse and children, your spouse will inherit two-thirds of your estate and your children will inherit the remaining one third, in equal shares.

So let’s say you have a spouse and five children, your spouse will be entitled to ten fifteenths of your estate, and your children will be entitled to one fifteenth each!

Does that sound a bit messy to you?

If you die a bachelor, without parent or children, your brothers and sisters will inherit your estate in equal shares.

By making a will, you can choose who you wish to inherit your assets rather than this decision being made by the law.

The one big lesson that we can learn from intestacy cases, is that without a will, a big old mess will be left behind, and in many cases, these messes can take years to be sorted out, after a lot of money is spent.

So let’s cut to the chase, why is having a will so important?, If you kick the bucket without

leaving a will, your estate will be divided up according to the law of intestacy, so there is no control over who gets what.

This could ultimately result in your belongings landing inthe hands of the wrong people.

No matter how old you are, the message is clear.

If you want to avoid creating heartache, and ensure that your estate is divided in accordance with your wishes, you must have a legally valid will drawn up.

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