Let me tell you about William and Kate. They were not married, but had lived together for 20 years. They kept their finances separate and did not have joint accounts, mainly for tax purposes. Kate was divorced and had 3 grown-up children from her previous marriage. Sadly, Kate died without making a Will. Her money and belongings were shared equally between her children and William received nothing.
It’s very simple – if you do not make a Will, your money and property does not necessary go to those who you may have wanted to benefit. This is particularly important if you are not married.
Let me explain…
If you are unmarried and do not leave a Will, your partner receives nothing. So, if you want your partner to benefit, now is the time to make a Will.
Even if you are married, your spouse/Civil Partner does not necessarily receive everything. If your estate is worth less than £250,000, then yes, your spouse gets it all. However, if your estate is worth more than £250,000, your spouse receives the first £250,000, your personal belongings and a ‘life interest’ in half of the rest. The remaining half passes equally to your children at age 18.
A ‘life interest’ means that your spouse can have the use of the asset and receive interest on investments, but does not have the benefit outright.
If you are married, do not have children and your estate is worth more than £450,000, your spouse receives the first £450,000, your personal belongings and a life interest in half of the rest. The other half goes to your parents, or if your parents have died to your brothers and sisters.
If you are not married, your estate would pass equally to your children. If you do not have children, your estate is passed equally to your parents. If your parents have died, it passes equally to your brothers and sisters, and so on working through your half-brothers and sisters, grandparents and aunts and uncles.
If you have no relatives, your estate goes to the Crown.
Complicated isn’t it?
Dealing with an estate where there is no Will is complicated, time-consuming and expensive for those you leave behind. It is far easier if you make a Will and clearly define who receives what and when.
Do you want your children to receive money, but not until they are older than 18 to give them chance to mature and not squander everything? If you do not make a Will, they will receive their shares at 18.
Do you want a charity or charities to receive a little something or a good friend to receive a particular belonging? This will not happen unless you make a Will.
A Will can also contain your wishes relating to your pets – Do you want to decide who will look after them and also maybe give this person some money to help with the expense of looking after your pets?
Even if you have made a Will, is it out of date?
Have you married since making a Will? If yes, it will not be valid.
Have you had children since making your Will but it does not mention children?
Are you divorced but have not changed your Will?
If the answer is Yes to any of these questions, it is time to make a Will or review your existing Will.
Two final points…
If you own something jointly with another person, they will automatically receive it upon your death by ‘survivorship’, regardless of any Will or intestacy rules. So, if you have a joint bank account, the account will pass to the joint account holder.
If you jointly own a property, it MAY pass automatically to the other owner(s). This depends on the terms of ownership and will be the subject of another Blog post. Watch this space!