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The 5 Times in Your Life You Should Make a Will
- AuthorCharles Davidson
It is estimated that at least 1 in 3 members of the UK population do not have a valid Will dealing with the entirety of their estate. In another study a majority of those surveyed believed their estate will automatically go to the “right” people when they die. Sadly, this is not always the case.
An individual dies intestate where there is no valid will or they have not disposed of their entire estate in a Will. In these situations the rules of intestacy will govern how the estate is be divided up and who receives what. The rules of Intestacy can sometimes be a “one size fits all approach” and this can lead to some unwanted and unfair results.
Making a will ensures your assets go to the right property and that your children or dependants are cared for in the event of your death.
Here are the five times in your life you should make will.
- Buying a house
Buying a home is one of the biggest purchases that most of us will make during our lives. You need to be sure that your share of the property ends up in the right hands. If you do not have a Will, or fail to update your Will when you buy a house, then it will be subject to rules of intestacy and may not go to the right person
If you own your home as joint tenants, your share of the property will automatically pass to your co-owner through a process called the “right of survivorship”. If you don’t want this to happen in the event of your passing, you should consult a solicitor about changing ownership to tenancy in common. If you own your home as tenants in common, you will need to specify in your Will who you wish to inherit your share of the property whether that be your co-owner, children or another close relative.
- Getting married
One of the more overlooked effects of getting married or forming a civil partnership is that any existing Will(s) you have made, whether together with your partner or separately, will automatically become invalid. The exception to this rule is that if the Will was drafted in contemplation of the specific marriage or partnership you are about to enter, and if the Will clearly states this, it will remain valid. Otherwise you will have to make another Will once you are married or enter into a civil partnership.
It may sometimes be possible to have your Will drafted together with a prenuptial agreement. Prenuptial agreements have become a common feature of modern marriages. A prenuptial agreements sets out what should happen to a couple’s assets and income in the event that their marriage or civil partnership breaks down, or, in rare cases, in the event of one parties passing.
Under the rules of intestacy your spouse or civil partner will automatically inherit the entirety of your estate. If you wish for your children, close relative or other parties to inherit part(s) of your estate, you will need to specify this in your new Will.
- Entering into a serious relationship
Contrary to popular belief, common law marriage does not exist. The assumption by many cohabiting couples in a long standing relationship that they have acquired rights similar to those of married couples is wrong. Unless you make a Will, your partner will not inherit any of your estate regardless of how long you have been together.
If you want your partner or your partner’s children, to inherit any of your estate you must specify this in you Will. Another important factor is if you want your partner to be responsible for your children in the event of your death, but they are not the biological parent. In this case, you should speak to a solicitor naming them as a legal guardian (see below).
- Getting a divorce
Getting a divorce can sometimes take some time. Although you may consider your relationship with your ex-partner to be over this may not be the case. While you are in the process of getting a divorce, until the decree absolute has been issued by the Courts you are still legally married to your former partner. This means that any existing Will that benefited your ex-partner will remain valid. On the grant of the decree absolute, any gift in your old Will to your ex-spouse is cancelled as is their appointment as Executor but the rest of the Will stands. This can create problems and it is always better to make a new Will.
Alternately, if you do not have a Will your ex-partner will still stand to inherit your estate, even if this is the last thing you would want. If you are getting divorced, you should not wait for the matter to conclude before instructing solicitors to have a new Will drafted.
- Having children
If you’ve just had a child, making a Will ensures that they will be cared for by your choice of guardian in the event of your death. If you die without a making a Will, there is a chance that your children will be put into foster care whilst suitable guardians are appointed by the Courts.
It’s also important to remember that unless your estate is worth more than £250,000.00 or your spouse (not necessarily your child’s parent) has also passed away, your children are not automatically entitled to any inheritance under the rules of intestacy. Any Will that is prepared for you should deal with the appointment of a legal guardian for the day-to-day care of any of your children under 18 years of age and provide for your children financially, such as a trust, which the children can access once they reach a certain age.
Ensure that you properly provide for your family and dependants by having a valid Will drawn up by our specialist Wills and Probate team, Stephen Hewitt and Charles Davidson. Call us now on 020 7091 2700 for a quote and to arrange an appointment.
This article is intended as a general summary on the law – no reliance should be placed on it.