Today is National ‘Visit Your Relatives Day’ – a reminder to actively make time for your family. It’s meant to encourage us to get into contact with relatives (preferably in person rather than over the telephone or by email) – particularly those relatives we’ve not spoken to in a long time.
Perhaps this day is an apt opportunity to consider making a will. There is no time like the present and anybody over the age of 18 can make a will, regardless of how many assets they have.
What if you die without a will?
You will die ‘intestate’. If you die intestate your residuary estate (i.e. what is left after expenses such as funeral costs and inheritance tax has been paid) is divided in the following ways:
If you are married or in a registered civil partnership and you have children:
- Your spouse or civil partner receives all of your personal belongings
- Your spouse or civil partner receives the first £250,000 of your estate
- The value of your estate above £250,000 is split equally in two halves – your spouse or civil partner takes one half absolutely, and the other half goes to your child or children (in equal shares) absolutely.
If you do not have children, grandchildren or other direct descendants:
- Your spouse or civil partner receives all of your personal belongings plus the whole of your estate.
Family dynamics are increasingly changing; there are now more single parent households and stepfamilies than ever. According to the Office for National Statistics, whilst married or civil partner couple families are the most common type of family in the UK, cohabiting couple families are the fastest growing family type.
Cohabiting couples do not have the same legal rights as married couples; if you die without a will your unmarried partner might not benefit from your estate as under the intestacy rules your estate will pass to your closest blood relatives. In the same way, stepchildren will not automatically benefit from your estate if you die intestate (unless you have adopted your stepchild).
Grandchildren also do not automatically benefit from your estate under the intestacy rules; they would only benefit in the unfortunate circumstance that your own child has predeceased you. These are only a few categories of relatives who may be adversely affected if you do not make a will.
Changes to your circumstances
Making a will should be something you do sooner rather than later. In the event that there are changes to your or your family’s life circumstances, such as buying or selling assets or the birth of grandchildren who you wish to bequeath specific gifts, it is possible to make changes to your will.
Nobody can force you to make a will. More importantly, only you have a right to decide who you choose to leave – or not leave – a legacy to. You should be cautioned, however, that your will could be contested under Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 if you have not made sufficient provision for your dependents (see Julian Potter’s article ‘The Potential Pitfalls of Dying Intestate’).
However, once you have made a will, you can rest assured that your family (and any other legatees) are well provided for in a way that suits you.
For more information please contact Adeola Alatishe (Adeola.Alatishe@DMHStallard.com) or the Private Client team (firstname.lastname@example.org).