As solicitors who have practised in the area of Wills/Probate for the past 20 years, we have come across several situations where people have died without leaving a Will and it has caused all sorts of problems. There is a general assumption that if you are married, involved in a civil partnership or simply co-habiting with someone, then that person will inherit the whole of your estate on your death. That is not necessarily the case.
Under the current intestacy rules, (which apply if you die without a Will) if you are married or have a civil partner and children, then only the first £250,000 (the statutory legacy) of your estate will pass to your surviving spouse/civil partner and the balance over that will be divided so that half goes to your children and the other half will be held on trust for the benefit of your spouse/civil partner during their lifetime and thereafter for your children. If you have no children but you have other relatives, then the first £450,000 of your estate will go to your spouse/civil partner and the balance will be divided so that half goes to your spouse/civil partner and the other half to your surviving relatives, in a set order.
In one case that I have been involved with, a husband, who owned all the family assets, died without leaving a Will. He was survived by his wife and a mentally incapacitated child. The amount of the widow’s statutory legacy was not sufficient to cover the value of her home. She therefore ended up sharing the ownership of her home with her child, whose assets were controlled by the Court of Protection. Some difficult decisions had to be made along the way, as to how to balance the needs of the beneficiaries, during which time the widow was extremely anxious and could not understand why she was not entitled to her husband’s estate.
A major issue arises for couples who are not married or in a civil partnership. The current intestacy rules make absolutely no provision for a co-habitee. In these circumstances, if you die without having made a Will, then your co-habitee will need to make a claim against your estate (essentially your relatives) for some provision. This can be costly and will inevitably take some time, during which period your co-habitee may suffer financial hardship. This situation may also lead to disharmony between your co-habitee and your relatives, adding stress to their bereavement.
All these issues can be resolved by making a Will. Amongst other things, a Will enables you to direct:
- how you would like your estate to be distributed
- who is to be responsible for administering your estate
- who should look after your children
- at what age your children/grandchildren should inherit.
At Bright Solicitors, we can assist you with the preparation of your Will, whether your requirements are straightforward or more complex. We take the time to get to know you and understand your circumstances, so that we can give you comprehensive advice and produce a Will that suits you.
Please contact Vicky Bligh if you would like to discuss how we can help you by calling 01752 388883 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.