What happens to your assets when you die? Doesn’t everything automatically go to your partner or spouse?
Well, no, and this mistaken belief might explain why so many people in the UK haven’t taken out a legally binding Will.
According to a survey by Will Aid, 49 per cent of people in the UK don’t currently have a Will in place, while 14 per cent of those who haven’t made a Will think their loved ones will automatically inherit when they die.
But that’s not what the law says, so if you die without a Will, your wealth won’t be distributed according to how you wish, even if you’ve made it known what you want to happen upon your death.
What Happens if I Don’t Have a Will?
The Rules of Intestacy govern what happens to a person’s Estate if you die without leaving a valid Will.
These state that once any tax and debts have been paid, the first £250,000 of what remains, your personal possessions and half of any outstanding wealth will go to your spouse or civil partner, and the rest will go to your children once they’ve turned 18.
So what does this mean in reality?
Firstly, it means that if you’re not married to your partner, they could receive absolutely nothing, even if you’ve lived together for many years.
Secondly, it means that if you’re separated but not divorced, your ex-husband or ex-wife will have a legal claim to part of your Estate.
Next, the rules mean that if your entire Estate is worth less than £250,000, the surviving spouse or civil partner will inherit everything, so conceivably, your children might not receive a penny.
And if you don’t have any living family members, all your assets will go to the state, whereas with a Will, you could have left it to an organisation or charity that you support.
So it’s in the best interests of both you and your loved ones to draw up a legally binding Will, so you can be sure your assets will go to your chosen beneficiaries and that nobody is left out.
A Will also lets you give clear instructions on other matters, such as whether you want to be cremated or buried, and who you want to be in charge of organising your Estate.
Take Charge of What Happens to Your Estate
Once you’ve taken out a Will, it’s then crucially important that you keep it up to date. Otherwise, it might not reflect changes in your life that may have happened since the original document was written, such as a marital separation, the death of a named beneficiary or the birth of a new child or grandchild.
Taking out a Will can also make a big difference to those loved ones you’ve left behind. For instance, if you’ve clearly laid out your wishes and these are legally binding, there’s no room for dispute over who gets what and what should happen to your money.
A Will also allows you to make sure you’re not paying more Inheritance Tax than is necessary, which again could be a great relief to your family and save them unnecessary stress at what’s already going to be a difficult time for them.
Ultimately, the advantages of taking out a Will are many, and it lets you be in control of your money and where it goes – and that can provide invaluable peace of mind to all concerned.