By John O’Prey, Murlands Solicitors, Downpatrick With people pledging commitments to New Year’s Resolutions and the period commonly viewed as the prime time to evaluate and make a fresh start, recently collated data has shown that January is a popular time to make a Will or update an existing one. A Will is a legally-binding document setting out the instructions for what should happen after you die – who will inherit your estate, what sort of funeral you would like, how your possessions will be shared amongst other things.

If not prepared properly, it may not be valid, and not having a will can have serious implications for the family of the person who has passed, not least making an already difficult time more stressful.

However, recent research revealed that 54% of adults do not have a Will. In fact, 5.4 million adults admitted that they wouldn’t know where to begin. It also found that a third of respondents had experienced a significant life event (such as marriage, buying a home or becoming parents) since making a Will, but more than half hadn’t then updated the document to reflect this. In some instances, a Will can be rendered invalid by such a change.

If you die without a Will, your ‘estate’ (including money, possessions, property and even pets!) will be distributed according to legal Rules of Intestacy – you will have had no say, your children may be subject to hefty taxes and the process can be complicated and testing for those you cared for.

John O’Prey, Partner at Murlands Solicitors said, “Naming a guardian for your children and ensuring they will be taken care of financially, protecting your partner if you are unmarried (they won’t be entitled to anything unless specified in your Will), safeguarding your family home and preventing any distressing family disputes are among the main reasons for ensuring you have an up-to-date Will.

You should consider all these elements before writing your will, as well as what monies and investments you have, any debts accrued and who you will name as your executor – the person who is tasked with ensuring your wishes are carried out.”

Most instruct a solicitor to write their will, as a means of ensuring the document is legally binding and correct – particularly if your situation is a little more complex, due to having children from previous marriage, for example.

During the month of January, a host of solicitors from across Northern Ireland will be waiving their fee for will-writing services with clients and instead, donating to leading local health charity Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke.

Some choose to leave a gift in their Will to a charity that they support, but in this instance, your waived fee would be your gift – going towards research that will help future generations, in the same way ensuring you have a valid Will helps future generations in your own family.

Murlands Solicitors, Downpatrick, Gordon Bell & Sons Solicitors in Rathfriland, Kilkeel and Dromore, JW McNinch & Sons Solicitors in Ballyclare and Glengormley, and C.T. McAlpine & Sons Solicitors, Dungannon will be taking part in a ‘Will You?’ initiative, that is a first for the charity.

These solicitors are encouraging local people to meet with their teams to realise the benefits of ensuring peace of mind for their family.

John O’Prey added, “As families come together over the festive period, it may spark some motivation for people to ensure their loved ones are protected. Or the new year might just bring a fresh perspective and desire to ‘get things in order’ such as finances and future plans. We’re pleased to be both encouraging people to make or amend their Will while contributing to the fight against heart disease in Northern Ireland.”

Jackie Trainor, Director of Income Generation at Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke added, “There are around 74,000 people living with heart disease across Northern Ireland and it accounts for 40% of all local deaths. The donation of the £75 fee will pay for one person living with heart disease to attend our new Heart Strong programme for one week. We are pleased to have so many legal practitioners from across Northern Ireland on board with this initiative, which is a first for Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke, and we appreciate their kind support of our Heart Strong campaign.”

For more information on how to avail of the ‘Will You’ initiative, visit


Charles Hurst MPU1 - 14 July 24