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Many people think that making a Will is reserved for those in their ‘winter years’. This has meant that many families of people who die unexpectedly are left in tricky situations. Whether they are trying to navigate the (not always clear or fair) laws of intestacy, find suitable guardians for the children, or falling out with other family members over the property, not having a Will can cause unnecessary trauma if you should pass away.
Having a Will drawn up when you are still young might seem like a daunting exercise. But with the right advice, it’s a stress-free process that will leave you with peace of mind and confidence that you have full control over your affairs.
Here are some things to consider if you are under 40 and do not yet have a Will drawn up:
Without a Will in place, if you pass away and the other parent survives you then they will, usually, become the child’s primary carer. However, if both parents pass away, and there is no Will in place, there is no longer any adult with parental responsibility or legal guardianship for your children.
In these circumstances, Social Services may need to become involved to help ensure that your children are placed with someone to care for them on a long term basis. Whilst they always try to place children within the family, there is no guarantee that the person you would have wanted to care for your children would even be considered as a potential carer – unless you appoint someone in your Will.
In your Will you can appoint whomever you wish to be the legal guardian for your children. Social Services may still become involved if your nominated guardians are unable or unsuitable to look after your children (perhaps due to old age or families of their own), but you will have peace of mind that you have done everything you can to secure their well being.
In recent years more and more couples are now living together and having families without getting married. 3.2 million couples chose to cohabit without getting married in 2015 alone. This is a reflection of a modern society where people want to spend their lives together, but don’t want to marry, or sometimes just don’t get round to it.
Many unmarried couples make the false assumption that if they live together for a certain amount of time, or if they are engaged, then they are considered ‘common law spouses’ and thus share the same rights as married couples. This is simply not true. Unless a Will is in place to ensure that your partner inherits what you want them to, your estate will be distributed to your wider family according to the rules of intestacy (see below).
If you own your home, it is even more important to make a Will. This is because unless you own your property as ‘Joint Tenants’*, your share (which could be 100% if you are a sole owner) will pass to your wider family and your partner will be relying on their goodwill to keep a roof over their head.
Making a Will provides you and your partner with security in the knowledge that if either of you passes away, the other won’t be left in an uncomfortable situation with the in-laws.
The intestacy rules determine who inherits from an estate when somebody dies without a valid Will. In essence, if you pass away without a Will, the following people inherit**:
Whether you have a long term partner that you would wish to inherit from your estate, or whether you are estranged from your family and would rather a close friend or a charity benefited from your estate, without a putting a Will in place, you have no say in where your money goes once you have passed away. Making a Will allows you to have full control over your estate, and prevents distant family benefiting from your hard-earned wealth unless you expressly want to include them.
Making a Will should be an easy and stress-free process, whilst being an important tool to enable you to ensure that those you love and care about are looked after should the worst happen, especially if this is in unexpected circumstances. For full peace of mind, contact one of our expert solicitors today on 0800 470 1420.
*Joint tenancy means that the property automatically passes to the other when one owner dies. The alternative is to own property as Tenants in Common.
**This is just a snapshot of the rules, and they can be more complex than this – for more information please contact one of our expert Wills and probate solicitors
Written by Verity McKay
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