Do I need a will?
We all know what a Will is but in the UK less than half of us have one in place! It’s important to understand what will happen to your estate if you die without a Will, especially if for instance you are an unmarried couple. If you die without making a Will, you are referred to as having died intestate. If this occurs, in England and Wales the rules of 'Intestacy' define how your estate will be distributed. Your loved ones will have no power over who inherits what from your estate. Many people (40% according to a recent survey*) mistakenly believe that simply living together can give you the same rights as marriage. They believe that ‘common-law marriage’ is a recognised legal status. They are wrong.
Many people believe that living together can give you the same rights as marriage. They are wrong...
In recent years, there have been two major reports by the Law Commission which recommended giving cohabitants greater rights in the areas of property, intestacy and family provision but the Government has not as yet moved to implement any of these proposals.
This means that, if you are in a long-term relationship but not husband and wife or civil partners, you have to plan your financial affairs more carefully than those who are married or in a civil partnership.
The major problem is what happens when one of you dies. Under the laws of intestacy, an unmarried partner is entitled to jointly owned assets only. If the couple have children, the estate of the deceased will pass to them when they are 18. If there are no children, the estate will pass to the deceased's closest relatives - parents, brothers, sisters etc. etc. - but never to the surviving partner.
Do I need a Will?
This makes it absolutely vital that unmarried couples make wills. A will ensures that your property passes to the people whom you wish to benefit on your death - not some second cousin in Australia that you've never even met! As well as dealing with the disposal of your property, you can also use your will to indicate who should be guardian of your children on your death.
So, Do I need a will?
The short answer is yes. Writing a valid Will is the only way you can be sure that your wishes are carried out and your loved ones provided for after your death. Also, dying without a Will may cause your family the distress of resolving legal problems on top of losing a loved one.
Food For Thought
- Single Person
You may wish for your estate to be shared amongst your family and friends or charities in the way you intended.
See Single Wills
Even though you are married, that doesn't necessarily mean that your spouse will automatically receive your whole estate. It could get complicated, especially if you have children from a previous relationship.
- Life Long Partner
If you have a life-long partner to whom you are not married and live together, you would be treated as single person and your partner would not be entitled to anything under Intestacy. But by stating your intentions in a Will, you will ensure that your partner is provided for.
See Mirror Wills
If you have children or step-children under 18, your children could potentially be placed into care if you both died, whilst your family will be applying to the court for custody. This is (as you can imagine) a time consuming, expensive and stressful process. However writing a Will is a way in which you can appoint a Guardian to have legal responsibility for your children (minors) after your death.
It might be that you made a Will a long time ago. It probably needs updating to include additional grandchildren or deletion of persons you no longer feel you wish to leave anything to. There may be content that is no longer valid.
We advise reviewing your Will every 2-5 years to take into account changes in circumstances.
Our trained consultants can discuss your current circumstances and recommend services that will provide the correct protection for you, your family and your assets. For peace of mind contact 'Assured Wills Southampton' today or call us on 01794 501 036 to arrange a free no obligation consultation with one of our estate planning specialists, at a time convenient to you and your family in the comfort of your own home.