Why you need a Will

30th September 2014

We all know how important it is to make a Will so that our estate is distributed in accordance with our wishes.  Nevertheless surveys continue to indicate that between half and two thirds of the adult population do not have a Will and often those who need one most are the least likely to have one.

When someone dies without a Will the rules of intestacy effectively provide one.  These rules are changing from tomorrow, 1st October 2014.

It may be that the new intestacy rules do reflect your wishes about how you would like your estate distributed in the event of your death; stranger things have happened. If they do not reflect your wishes (and our experience is that clients are often very surprised, even shocked, when we explain the consequences of intestacy) then you ought to make a Will.

If you choose to plan with Fortitude we will advise you about the most appropriate way to structure your Will in order to leave your estate in a manner which reflects your wishes, while managing the impact of inheritance tax. We can also recommend a solicitor who can prepare your Will correctly.

The estate of someone who is married or has a civil partner but no children

The biggest change is for married couples and civil partnerships without children. Under the old rules, if a spouse died intestate and there were no children, then the first £450,000 of the estate, plus half of the rest, went to the surviving spouse. The other half was split between the deceased’s blood relatives – which often meant the money went back to the parents. Where there were no parents or siblings (or nieces and nephews) the entire estate passed to the surviving spouse or civil partner.

Under the new rules the surviving spouse or civil partner inherits the entire estate, whatever the value.

The estate of someone who is married or has a civil partner and has children

Under the old rules, the married partner inherited everything up to £250,000, with a complicated system for sharing out anything above that. Firstly, the children would receive half of the balance above £250,000 immediately (or held in trust to they reached the age of 18). Secondly, the other half would also go to the children, but the surviving spouse would have a “life interest” in the money while they remained alive. The life interest meant he or she could take income from the money, but not the capital.

But from 1 October, the life interest concept is abolished. The surviving married partner will take all of the first £250,000 and then be fully entitled to half of the remainder. The children will get half of anything above £250,000 – and they will have to wait until they are 18 years old to access it.

And if you are living with your partner

For unmarried couples the position remains unchanged with there being no provision for an unmarried partner, which means that co-habitees have no automatic right to receive a penny – regardless of how long they have lived together or even if they had children. So it remains the case that the only way to ensure that part, or all, of your estate will go to your partner is to marry them, or make a Will.