The sun is out, the children are noisy and most of us have managed to buy a few rolls of toilet paper! It wasn’t the first thing which came to mind as the current crises unfolded but these are strange times. Many of us are stuck at home with the opportunity to tackle some of those tasks which we have been meaning to get around to. One item on many peoples list is making a will. We have had a lot of enquiries about them in recent days. Just as important as the management of your affairs after you have gone, is their management during your lifetime. I’ve written a separate article on the benefit of having Lasting Powers of Attorney in place. Is it a good idea to make a will? I thought it would be useful to remind people of what the position is if they don’t.
Dying without a Will
Most of us should have a Will so it is clear what will happen to you assets when you die, hopefully not just yet, but none of us can live for ever. Occasionally, however, a Will can be academic.
Jointly owned assets
If all of the assets you hold are in the joint names of yourself and your spouse, civil partner or partner then they will automatically pass to the survivor on first death. If you rely on this principle you need to be very confident all assets have been taken into account and that any property is held as beneficial joint tenants. There will always be some element of risk in relying on this particular principle particularly if you are not married or in a civil partnership.
If you have a spouse or civil partner and no children, then all of your assets will pass to your spouse/civil partner under the intestacy rules if you do not have a Will. Similarly if you do not have a spouse/civil partner and have children then all of your assets will pass to your children in equal shares. This may not always be desirable particularly where young children are involved.
When the problems arise
Problems start to arise if you are not married to your partner or if you have both a spouse/partner/civil partner and children. In such circumstances the absence of a Will can lead to significant problems. With a spouse and children assets are potentially divided between them. If you have a partner to whom you are not married or in a civil partnership with then they will inherit nothing, and everything will go to your children. Where assets pass to children and there is a living spouse/civil partner then you can also unnecessarily incur a liability for inheritance tax. If there are no children and you just live together then again you inherit nothing as the law regards you as strangers.
If you are not married or in a civil partnership and one of you dies, you may have insurance to pay off the mortgage. In such circumstances you can receive a very large inheritance tax bill however. The Tax man doesn’t look kindly on those who haven’t ‘tied the knot’.
Cause for thought?
I hope this note gives some reassurance and for some people it will no doubt give them cause for thought. To ensure continuity of service during this difficult time we have members of our Estates Department working remotely so that they can continue to provide a service. If you have any issues that you would like to discuss then we would be happy to speak with you either by telephone, email or a video conferencing facility. In respect of the latter we are happy to communicate by either skype, Zoom or other similar means.
We wish you all well over the coming weeks.