To Will or not to Will? What happens if I die without one?
A professional drawn up Will can provide peace of mind that your estate will pass to the people you want it to. It can also avoid a lot of unnecessary expense and heartache for those you leave behind, at what can already be a difficult time. Yet many die without having made a Will.
If you do not leave a Will who gets what depends on:
- how you own your property (whether in your sole name or with others)
- the value of your assets; and
- the relatives you leave behind
Even if you are married or in a civil partnership your spouse or civil partner may not automatically inherit your entire estate. The points set out here apply equally to civil partners when we refer to spouses.
The following situations arise which many feel result in a surprising distribution of your estate:
- Unmarried couples have no right to benefit from assets owned solely by their partner. This is the case even if they have lived together for many years. Other living relatives would benefit instead. This may lead to financial hardship for the surviving partner, if even only for a short time, whilst either an agreement is reached with the relatives or a court makes a decision, if the surviving partner feels they need to make some claim against their partner’s estate.
- If you are married or in a civil partnership and have children and your assets are worth over £250,000 then the children are entitled to part of the estate. When house values are taken into account this £250,000 threshold can be easily reached. If the survivor does not have sufficient assets it may require court hearings, particularly if the children are under 18, to re-distribute the estate.
- Even if your assets pass to your spouse would you be happy for it to eventually pass to your partner’s side of the family on their death and for your side of the family to be disinherited?
- Many people are survived by a mixture of brothers and sisters and half-brothers and sisters who they look upon equally yet it will only be the brothers and sisters who share the same mother and father who will benefit: half-siblings only inherit if there are no living brothers or sisters or their children.
- Depending on the value of an estate it may result in inheritance tax becoming payable even where the deceased leaves a surviving spouse. This is likely to be avoided where a correctly drawn will is left.
- Where there is a spouse they receive the personal effects. If children are left too, then the spouse receives the first £250,000 and the remainder is split between the survivor and the children.
Expense can be incurred by the need to negotiate with other family members and possibly the need to proceed all the way to court where either a compromise cannot be agreed or where the court has to be involved. The expense involved in this type of negotiation far exceeds the cost of having a professionally drawn up Will.
Death is often a time when emotions run high and having the added difficulty of an unknown financial future can add to the burden.
So, why leave a potential problem for your nearest and dearest when you could have a Will prepared to ease many of the problems that arise on intestacy?
Call us to draw up your Will today – it’s what we do.
Published by Simon Crooks 10 June 2015