Partner Michelle Collins answers some questions around the subject of intestacy (if you die without a Will).
We are married, with no children and we don’t own our own property. We want everything to go to each other; do we really need a Will?
You’re absolutely right that if you are married without children then your whole estate passes to each other. But…. what happens when the second person dies? If there were no Will, on the second death the whole joint estate would pass to the family of the second person to die under the intestacy rules. With nothing passing to the family of the first to die. This leaves it up to chance as to who would receive the final estate, depending on who dies first, rather than you deciding between you how you would want things distributed. A Will means that you could sit down and decide who would receive any remaining assets on the second death. Perhaps 50% to each side of the family?
My partner and I have been living together for over twenty years, so we are as good as married! If one of us dies, we want to make sure that the other person and our children can stay in the house. If we had any debts, would the house have to be sold to pay them?
As you are unmarried, whoever is left would get nothing on the death of their partner. Everything would pass to your children, including the debts. As the assets are passing to children, there may also be inheritance tax to pay – and that could mean that the property would need to be sold to pay the tax and the debts.
We both made Wills several years ago and finally got round to getting married last year. What happens if the Guardians that we appointed in our Wills aren’t able to look after the children in the event of our death?
Firstly, congratulations on your marriage! Secondly, your Wills are now invalid! Marriage revokes all previous Wills, so it is incredibly important that new Wills are signed as soon as the wedding day is over (romantic I know!). Within the Wills, replacement Guardians can be named to cover the situation above.
I don’t like the idea of having my Will drawn up; it feels a really morbid thing to do. Can I leave it to my family to distribute my assets?
Completing a Will is the best thing you can do for your family. It makes it very clear to everyone how you want things to be dealt with and doesn’t pass on the burden to others to try and guess your final wishes. If you want family members to have discretion as to who gets certain personal belongings, then some guidance in the Will is useful - and a fallback position can be stated to prevent any arguments! The rest of your estate (ie property or money) would usually be given to set beneficiaries under your Will, often in percentages, ie split equally between children, charities, and family members.