That might sound obvious, but sometimes, by the time you realise just how key it is, it’s too late.

You probably assume that I’m talking about couples who are on the verge of getting divorced or business partners who are falling out, and yes, that is a good time to improve your communication skills.

But actually, I was focusing on the dead. Let’s face it, the chances of being able to hold a proper conversation with someone who has shuffled off this mortal coil is limited, and even if you do feel their presence, or have someone who can communicate with them for you, that kind of evidence is not going to stand up well in court.

So for those of you who have assets and people you want to leave those assets to, here are my top tips to avoid having to come back to haunt those who have misunderstood you.

Firstly, do you need a will at all. You’ll probably assume that I’m going to say YES, YES, YES, but actually I’m not. It depends on how much is in your estate and who you want to leave it to. If you’re going to do a will properly it’s going to cost you a few hundred pounds at least, and why spend that money if it’s not necessary. I spoke with a contact last week who was trying to encourage his daughter to make a will but she was resisting (probably still at the age where she thinks she’ll live forever!) Her assets would only be worth a few thousand, and it would go automatically to her parents, which is what she’d want her will to say anyway. So what’s the point. Wait until things change (more assets, other people to leave assets too) and then do it.

Secondly, if you are going to leave a will, make sure it accurately reflects your wishes. That may sound strange, but people often don’t read things properly, especially when it’s full of legal jargon. Don’t be afraid to ask whoever has drawn it up for you to clarify what it all means because once you’re gone, you’re not going to be around to say “that’s not what I said”!

Finally (and this was the main point of the blog) consider telling people what you’ve done and, more importantly, why. It’s your money and you are entitled to leave it to whoever you want, but if you do something unexpected, such as leaving someone out, it can cause problems both legal and emotional. I’ve just finished helping a man whose father left him out of the estate and left everything to his sister. He’s convinced that the sister put undue influence on the father to do that, and it’s possible that he’s right, but I have no evidence so I cannot prove it, and he has no automatic right to an inheritance. So he’s going to spend the rest of his life wondering if either he let his father down by not protecting him more from his sister, or if his father let him down by leaving him out of the will for no good reason without ever explaining why. Not to mention the bad feeling it’s created within the family, and the legal costs that have been incurred with no benefit.

So remember to talk to each other, because you never know when it might be too late.

Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. Better value than a séance!