People who die without a Will could see their loved ones lose out financially, their children placed with people they would not wish them to be left with and potentially spark costly and damaging disputes amongst those left behind.
It is estimated that more than 60 per cent of the UK adult population – around 30 million people – do not have a valid Will, while many more are failing to review their existing arrangements.
In light of this, Palmers Solicitors is campaigning to raise awareness locally so that people understand the problems they could leave behind if they die without a Will.
“Under the law in England and Wales, when a person dies without a Will their assets will be distributed according to what are known as the intestacy rules,” said, Partner, Tim Steele.
“Under these arrangements, the only people to automatically inherit are married or civil partners. If they also have children and the estate is worth more than £250,000, then the first £250,000 will go to their spouse or civil partner and the rest will be divided in half between the surviving spouse and children.”
According to Tim, this may not meet the wishes of the person who passed away and in some cases could see long separated spouses obtain an estate instead of a person’s current partner and loved-ones.
“There have been too many instances where a long cohabiting, but unmarried partner has been excluded from becoming a beneficiary, just because no Will was present,” said Tim.
“This could lead to children from the second relationship being cut out as well or leave them having to fight it out with a long-estranged partner or step siblings in order to obtain their family wealth.
“People also need to be aware that if a married person or civil partner passes away leaving no children or descendants, the whole estate will pass to the surviving spouse or civil partner, whether or not there are surviving parents or siblings and regardless of the value of the estate. This could also leave loved-ones disinherited.”
While Tim argues there should be more protection for cohabiting couples and other family members, he says that under the current arrangements people should save their relatives the “stress and costs” of “lengthy” legal proceedings and write a Will.
“Although there is a perception that drafting a Will is a costly process, it could potentially help your family in the long-run and may even help to reduce inheritance tax charges for them in the future if it is carefully drafted,” he added.
Tim said that writing a Will was just one part of the process, adding that “too many people have a Will, but never think to update it.”
He recommends that individuals review their Will every five to 10 years or at major turning points in their life, such as following a divorce or the birth of a new child or grandchild.
However, Tim added that while financial disputes are the most common outcomes of a person dying without a Will, a much more frightening possibility is that – if both parents die – any surviving children could be placed with people the parents would not wish them to be placed with.
“A Will deals with much more than how your assets are dealt with, it enables you to indicate your wishes for the future of your family.”
Palmers Solicitors is holding a free seminar on Inheritance Tax, Wills and Last Powers of Attorney to help you plan for your family’s future.
For more information about this event, please call 01245 322111 to speak to our team.