Wills and Probate – Happily Ever After

Christmas was just over a month ago and there were lots of lovey-dovey films on TV, often ending with a wedding. However, this doesn’t reflect reality.

Like many couples today, Ann and Fred live together but never bothered to get married. They couldn’t see the point, they said.

Ann fondly imagines that, when she dies, Fred will get all her money, despite the fact that she hasn’t written a Will.

Unfortunately, Ann is wrong.

Fred will have to establish a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This can be costly and time-consuming, and there is no guarantee of success.

Despite popular conception, there is no such thing as a ‘common-law’ husband or wife. Co-habitation does not confer the same rights as marriage or civil partnership.

More and more people choose to live together without marrying, but only 17% of co-habitees have made a Will*.

Without a valid Will, it’s called ‘dying intestate’, and the State decides who gets what. The intestacy laws are complex, but here’s a brief outline:

  • If you are married or in a registered civil partnership, and have no children…

o   Your spouse will usually get everything

  • If you are married or in a civil partnership, with children…

o   Your spouse will receive £250,000, plus your personal belongings, plus half the estate. Your children will get the rest of the estate (held in trust until they reach 18)

  • If you are not married and have no children…

o   Your estate will go to your other blood relatives – not your partner.

  • If you are not married and do have children…

o   Your children will inherit the lot

It doesn’t cost a lot to put a Will in place that specifies what you want to happen when you die. By using a solicitor, you will ensure that your Will is drawn up properly and your wishes are carried out.

You will need to consider:

  • Who will inherit your property
  • Who should handle your affairs
  • Who will be the guardian for any minor children (if there is no surviving parent)
  • Whether you’d prefer to be buried or cremated
  • If you want to donate your organs or whole body for medical purposes

If you have substantial assets, it’s also wise to take expert financial advice to help reduce the inheritance tax liability.

*Source: National Consumer Council

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