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If you do not leave a Will, when you die the law (known as the ‘Intestacy Rules’) will decide who will inherit your assets. The Intestacy Rules provide a list of beneficiaries who can inherit your assets if they survive you. The problem is that the Intestacy Rules do not cater for all family situations and may result in those you wish to benefit from your Estate on your death not receiving anything at all. There is a common misconception that unmarried partners, often mistakenly referred to as ‘common law spouses’, will benefit automatically on death. The Intestacy Rules do not provide any benefits for unmarried partners. There is also no provision in the Intestacy Rules for step-families. Any beneficiaries not adequately provided for under the Intestacy Rules would need to apply to make a claim against the Estate, which is a court process and can be lengthy and costly, with no guarantee of success.
Even if the Intestacy Rules provide for those you wish to benefit on your death, they may not provide for them in the way that you would want or need. If you leave a spouse or civil partner and children and your Estate is worth more than £250,000 your spouse/civil partner will not receive all of your Estate. The excess will be divided equally between your spouse/civil partner and your children, which could cause issues, particularly if it leads to co-ownership of your main home between your spouse/civil partner and children. This may threaten your spouse’s/civil partner’s security if the children wish to have their share in the Estate. Also assets passing under the Intestacy Rules pass outright to your beneficiaries, meaning they are free to deal with those assets as they see fit during their lifetime and on their death. Under the Intestacy Rules beneficiaries will be entitled to their share of your Estate at the age of 18, which you may feel is too young. In a Will you can change the age at which a beneficiary inherits.
The safest way to ensure your Estate passes to those you would like to benefit, and in the way you would like them to benefit, is have a properly prepared Will and to discuss your requirements with someone who can advise you on the implications. It is better to be prepared than to leave it to the law to decide.
The Private Client team at WSP Solicitors are available to advise on all of the above options and to talk you through the issues involved and whether it is the correct course of action in the circumstances particular to your situation.
To contact a Private Client Solicitor at WSP, please click here.
For further information on Estate Planning please click here.
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