According to research fewer than one-third of adults have made Wills and one in six Wills are out of date. If you do not make a Will the law decides what happens to your estate and this may not be what you expect or intend. You may also fail to take advantage of possible tax planning opportunities.
You can use your Will to:
- decide who would inherit your assets
- save inheritance tax
- appoint executors – the individuals responsible for winding up your affairs in accordance with your wishes
- appoint guardians to look after your children and trustees to manage their inheritance until they are mature enough to do so themselves
- leave a gift to a good cause or something special to a friend or loved one
Married Couples and Registered Civil Partners
An existing Will is normally revoked by marriage or registered civil partnership.
Do not assume that because you are married everything automatically passes to your spouse/civil partner on death. This is not necessarily the case, particularly if you have children and your estate exceeds £250,000. Furthermore, if you own a home worth more than £250,000 your spouse/civil partner will not necessarily be entitled to it.
Home Ownership and Co-habitation
Registered same sex civil partners now have the same rights as married couples. However, unmarried or unregistered couples who live together must make Wills if they wish to leave assets to each other. The law does not give a surviving co-habiting partner the same rights as married couples or civil partners. There is no such thing as a “common law spouse”.
If you do not have a Will your partner could get nothing and may even be forced to leave the property occupied together.
If a couple have lived together for more than two years, or a surviving partner was financially dependent on the deceased, a surviving partner can make a claim against the estate for financial provision. However, this involves complicated and lengthy legal proceedings which are best avoided.
Keeping your Will updated
Whilst Wills are normally prepared to take account of your likely future circumstances, it is wise to review your Will every few years and you should review your Will on any of the following events within your family :
- entering into a marriage, registered civil partnership or co-habitation
- birth of children
- the death of your spouse, partner or other relative
- divorce or separation
- receiving a significant inheritance or a personal injury award