August 22, 2012

Adults without a Will

It has been reported that almost 60% of adults do not have a Will. This can be because they do not think that they need one in their circumstances, or they believe that their assets will go to their loved ones in any event.

WHAT HAPPENS?

When a person dies without making a Will, their belongings fall into their ‘estate’ which is then divided up according to intestacy rules. These rules determine who is entitled to inherit and how much they will receive. If that person was married, their spouse will take everything, up to a certain amount and over that, assets are divided between family members in a strict order.

If they were not married then the estate passes in its entirety to any children, to be shared equally amongst them (their share being passed on to their children if they are deceased). If there were no children, then the estate passes in its entirety to any parents still living, or if none were then to any siblings (again, their share being passed on to their children if they are deceased). If the person had no relatives at all, everything will go to the crown; nothing would pass automatically to their partner.

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS

Many people believe in the legal myth of the ‘common law’ marriage. This does not exist and no part of the estate passes to a partner that they were living with. There are proposals to increase the rights of unmarried cohabitees, but until the government make any changes to the law, your partner is not protected and will not inherit anything unless provided for by you in a Will. Often surviving partners must make a claim for a discretionary award from the courts under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, in order to receive support.

WHAT TO DO?

In summary, if you want to ensure that your loved ones are taken care of according to your wishes, you should execute a Will. It is also advisable to ensure that your Will is always up to date and to make amendments following any big life events or change in circumstances. The safest way to do this is to seek the advice of a qualified solicitor in a private client team, in order to prevent any discrepancies or future family disagreements. If you are involved with a dispute in relation to a will or intestacy, advice can also be provided by professionals such as our specialist Disputed Wills and Trusts team.

If you would like any further information, please contact partner, James Laycock on 0113 227 0382 or at james.laycock@gordonsllp.com.