The importance of having a Will cannot be underestimated. Many people never get around to making one, despite their best intentions to do so. Whilst we all fear our own mortality, making a Will is one of the most important decisions of your life. It is the only way you can ensure your Estate is passed on to the people you wish.
There is a misconception that if you are married or in a Civil Partnership that your surviving spouse/ civil partner will inherit your Estate. This is not the case. The survivor is entitled to:-
- a housing right up to a maximum value of £473,000, if key conditions are met.
- household contents, up to a maximum value of £29,000, if key conditions are met.
- Cash – the survivor will receive a cash right of £89,000 if the deceased is not survived by children. This is reduced to £50,000 if the deceased is survived by children.
- Legal rights – these provide for the survivor to receive a fixed share of the moveable estate (all assets except land and buildings). If survived by a spouse or civil partner, and children, the survivor receives a third and if survived by a spouse or civil partner only, they will receive one half.
Where couples cohabit, and are not married, the survivor is not entitled to anything automatically. The surviving cohabitant needs to apply to the court and the maximum the court can award is what the cohabitant would have received if the couple had been married or in a civil partnership.
A childless marriage/ civil partnership could result in the deceased parents and siblings inheriting a significant Estate in preference to the surviving spouse/ civil partner. By way of example: Mr & Mrs A are married but have no children. They do not own the house they live in but are cash rich. Mr A passes away and has a moveable estate worth £300,000. If Mr A did not leave a will, Mrs A would only be entitled to inherit approximately £160,000 (being her Prior rights and legal rights). The remainder of Mr A’s estate would be divided between his parents and siblings (and possibly nephew’s and nieces).
Each individual’s circumstances have to be considered on their own facts, but having a Will in place, can avoid unintended beneficiaries benefitting from your Estate.
With Society’s every changing family structure, it is even more important to have a Will in place in order to ensure your family and loved ones are protected in the event of your death:
As the law stands at the moment, if one member of a cohabiting couple (a couple who live together but are not married or in a Civil Partnership) passes away with no Will, there is a risk that the surviving partner will be left with no right to receive anything from their partner’s Estate. In such a scenario, the surviving partner would have to make an application to the Court to make a claim on the Estate. Such an application will not only be costly and time consuming, it could also result in discontent amongst your surviving loved ones. Furthermore, this kind of application is not guaranteed and can only be made under certain circumstances. It is therefore vital to make a Will if you wish your partner to be provided for in the event your death.
Depending on your own personal circumstances, a Will could also help you mitigate inheritance tax. There are financial advantages to having a Will when it comes to the administration of your Estate. Depending on the size of your Estate, if there is no Will, then an application to the Court may have to be made to have an executor appointed and an insurance bond put in place. This will increase the costs and timescales for the winding up of your Estate and may cause additional worry and financial difficulties to your family and loved ones. For more information on this please see our Executries Section.
At Jain, Neil and Ruddy we will provide comprehensive advice on all matters to assist you in the preparation of your Will. A Will need not cost very much and could also be done with the assistance of Legal Aid if you financially qualify.
We also participate in the Will Aid Scheme in November of each year. If your Will is prepared under the Will Aid Scheme, you will be invited to make a donation to charity instead of paying a fee. This will give you the added feel-good factor of supporting a leading UK charity, whilst putting your affairs in order.
If you would like to discuss making a Will or indeed, updating one you already have, please do not hesitate to contact us.