Swindon Wills and Probate solicitor Megan Phillips explains why it is very important to have a Will, particularly if you own your own home, are cohabiting or have a young family.
According to various sources, somewhere in the region of 60% of adults in the UK die without a Will – referred to as ‘dying intestate’. This is surprising, given the number of common misconceptions about what happens if you do not have one.
My spouse will inherit everything
Many people assume that if you are married and do not have a Will, your spouse will receive your entire estate on your death. This is not always true. If your estate is larger than £250,000 and you have children, your children will also automatically take a share. To ensure that everything passes to your surviving spouse on your death, having a Will is essential.
The myth of the ‘common law’ husband or wife
Many people believe that if you live with your partner the law recognises them in the same or in a similar way to a spouse. That is totally incorrect. The term ‘common law’ spouse is a total misnomer and if you are not married or in a civil partnership, you have no automatic right to each other’s estate.
Whilst it is possible for a partner to make a claim against an estate for lack of financial provision, this is sometimes far from straightforward and can be expensive. By simply providing for your partner in a Will, you can be sure that they will not be in financial distress after your death.
The Intestacy Rules
If you do not have a Will, statutory rules will automatically take effect on your estate. These govern which of your family members will inherit from you. These ‘intestacy rules’ can be read here.
These very inflexible rules do not always suit the modern family. These days, second marriages are common and it is an increasing concern of our clients to ensure that children from previous relationships are protected when it comes to their inheritance. Having a well drafted Will can set your mind at rest that your whole family will be well looked after once you have gone.
Within a Will, parents can appoint Guardians to care for any children who are under 18. This is extremely important as without an express appointment in your Will, a dispute may arise among surviving family members. To avoid any dispute, it is best to make the appointments in your Will so that those left behind know and respect your wishes.
Finally, having a professionally drafted Will can help to reduce the amount of inheritance tax payable on your estate. At a meeting with a member of our team, they will explain the current inheritance tax legislation to you and, if it might affect your estate, advise you on how to minimise the amount payable.