What’s the worst that could happen? For most people, it would be to lose someone they love. But what if, whilst dealing with their loss, they also had to deal with the prospect of losing the family home and their financial security?
This can, and does, happen when a person dies without a Will.
Whilst you can’t avoid the worst happening, you can ensure your property and assets are passed on to your loved ones by making a Will and keeping it up-to-date.
What if… you died without a Will?
The intestacy rules set out legal rights to inherit when a person dies without a Will. However, the rules may not provide the best outcome for your and your loved ones, in particular where a couple is not married. They also do not protect your loved ones from events that can happen in the future, long after you die.
In this post, we explain why it is essential to make a Will if:
- You want to protect your children from potentially losing their inheritance
- You live with a partner but are not married
- Your home is owned in your or your partner/spouse’s sole name
- You hold other property or assets in sole names
- As a couple, you have young children
- You are single with young children
- You are single or married with no children.
Protect your children from potentially losing their inheritance
If you are married and die without a Will, your estate (property and assets) will automatically be passed on to your spouse. On the death of your spouse in the future, the estate would pass on to your children.
However, there are many occasions where this doesn’t happen. Common life events can lead to the estate being diverted away from the children – and ultimately being passed on to someone unrelated to the person who died.
For example, if your spouse remarried after your death, their assets would commonly be shared with their new partner. If the new spouse were to outlive your surviving spouse, they could wholly inherit your estate. The only way to ensure your estate is passed on to your children is to make a Will.
Protect your partner if you are not married
There is a common assumption that, after a certain length of time, unmarried couples acquire the same rights as married couples. This is generally referred to as ‘common law marriage’ but is actually a myth. If your partner dies and there is no Will, unless you were married or in a civil partnership, you have no automatic entitlement to inherit anything from them.
Learn more about your rights if you are not married here
Passing on property in sole names
Even if you have lived in the property for a long time and have contributed financially, unless you are married or named as a joint owner, you have no automatic right to inherit. The reality of this situation can come as a devastating blow at the very worst of times.
Without a Will stating that you are your partner’s beneficiary, you would have to apply to the courts for a claim on the estate. This can be a lengthy and costly process with no guarantees, especially if there are other beneficiaries.
Similarly, if you hold other property or assets in sole names, the intestacy rules would determine who inherits them in the absence of a Will. Unless you are married or in a civil partnership, they would not automatically pass to your partner.
Guardianship for young children
For couples with young children, a Will is essential for ensuring the children would be looked after by someone you know and trust in the event both parents died (or just you if you’re a single parent). Unfortunately, if guardians have not been appointed in a Will, it would be up to the court to decide who would look after the children. Whilst this was being decided they could be taken into care.
It is also important to think about who would manage the estate for the children if they are minors. You can appoint Trustees to do this in your Will.
Passing on your estate when you don’t have children
Single people and married couples with no children often believe they don’t need to make a Will. However, it’s wise to remember that the intestacy rules may mean your estate isn’t passed on as you would wish: unmarried partners have no automatic rights, and your loved ones may have to apply to the courts for the right to deal with your estate. With a Will, you get to choose who would be suitable to act as executor.
Read our tips for appointing executors here
Client Relationship Manager, Sharon Rigden, has seen first-hand the difference having a Will can make: “I have been involved with a number of cases recently where someone has passed away unexpectedly. Thankfully in each case, there was an up-to-date Will in place – which ensured the beneficiaries were protected and made the whole process of dealing with the estate so much easier for the loved ones. It would have been a very different story if they had not made their Will.”
Make a Will or discuss an existing Will
We invite you to arrange a free consultation with Sharon to discuss making a new Will or to review an existing Will to ensure it is:
- Legally valid
- A true reflection of your wishes
- Appropriate for your circumstances now
Your session can take place in person or by phone/video call and you are not obliged to act on the advice given.