It is a relatively well known fact that more people do not make Wills than do make Wills.
If you die without making a Will the law ‘writes’ a Will for you; your estate will be administered in line with these legal rules.
For example, if you are married or in a civil partnership, your spouse or civil partner will inherit your whole estate if you have no children BUT not necessarily if you do have children. In that case, the spouse will take (in addition to assets held as joint tenants which is a type of joint ownership) the first £250,000. The balance of the estate is divided into two parts; the spouse or civil partner taking one part and the children the other divided equally between them.
This can lead to unanticipated and undesirable results. If for example, the deceased’s share in the family home is worth more than £250,000 and the spouses or civil partners held the property as tenants in common (the other type of joint ownership), a share in the house will be inherited by the children.
Partners who chose not to marry or enter into a civil partnership inherit nothing from their deceased partner under the intestacy rules. They will only take assets held with the deceased as joint tenants. It is perfectly possible however that there are no joint assets and that instead the deceased partner’s closest living relatives will inherit their estate.
Many of us nowadays live in relationships which look like, but are not legally, a marriage or civil partnership. These relationships are recognised by the law in only very limited circumstances. The surviving partner can claim against the estate of the deceased for reasonable financial provision. This means instructing lawyers and possibly going to court. The expense of this process will diminish the value of the estate and more importantly, can cause stress and anxiety to all concerned at a time when they are already grieving for a loved one.
If you want to ensure that your estate passes to those you wish to benefit, it is absolutely essential that you either make a Will or satisfy yourself that the rules on intestacy will produce the desired result.