Q: My sister wants my husband and I to make Wills, but why would we need to if we own everything together and we are both still alive? Surely if one of us dies everything will automatically go to the other?
A: Many married couples mistakenly believe that it is not necessary to make Wills as the other will automatically inherit the entirety of the estate when one dies. However, many are surprised to learn that this is not necessarily the case when people die without a valid Will, i.e. intestate.
Dying intestate means you have no say in what happens to your estate and the 'Rules of Intestacy' will divide it in a pre-determined way. People whom you may not wish to benefit could do so and the disposal of your estate may not be carried out in the most tax-efficient way.
If you die intestate and there are surviving children, grandchildren or great grandchildren and your estate is valued at more than £250,000, then your surviving spouse or civil partner will inherit all your personal property and belongings, the first £250,000 of your estate and just half of your remaining estate. Even if a couple own their house jointly, when one dies the other’s right to inherit the property in entirety will depend on whether the property is owned as beneficial joint tenants or as tenants in common.
Without a Will, spouses, partners, children or step-children do not automatically inherit an estate. The same applies to couples in a civil partnership or who live together without any formal arrangement. So having a Will is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family. Further, having it drawn up by a professionally trained solicitor is the only way to avoid mistakes or lack of clarity that could make your Will invalid.
(Article publised 21.08.2017)