Many people assume that when they die, all their belongings would automatically go to their loved ones, but this is not necessarily the case.
If you die before making a Will and you are not married to your partner (or formed a civil partnership), your partner will not automatically inherit anything from you. No matter how long you have been together or how committed you are, the law dictates that everything will go to your nearest blood relative.
If after your death, your family is entitled to compensation, a death-in service payment, or an insurance pay-out and you don’t make a Will, this too will go to your blood relatives.
In the case of a home that is jointly owned, it often has to be sold so that a share of the assets can pass from the deceased to the next of kin.
If you are unmarried and have no living relatives, your entire estate will pass to the taxman.
Your partner may not even have a say in your funeral arrangements.
If you have young children…
If you have young children and are the only adult with Parental Responsibility you need to appoint a guardian. If there is another adult with Parental Responsibility he/she will continue to have Parental Responsibility after your death, and would be the obvious person to be the children’s guardian. But they may die before you, or this might not be what you want to happen. See Guardianship for more information.
Who has Parental Responsibility?
The mother always has Parental Responsibility for her children. Her unmarried partner will not have this unless:
He is the child’s biological father and he:
- marries the mother, or
- is named as the father on the birth certificate, and the birth was registered after 1st December 2003, or
- has made a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mum which is then registered at the court, or
- has applied to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order, because the mother refused to make an agreement.
If your partner is not the child’s father he/she can get Parental Responsibility by applying to the court for a residence order.
If you Don’t Make a Will
The most common problems occur when:
- You are still legally married to somebody else. If you are separated but not yet divorced from a previous partner, they will inherit the bulk of your estate and your unmarried partner, as always, will get nothing.
- You have children, a partner, and are not married If you have children (and you are not married, or are divorced) the whole estate will be divided between your children. The children would own any savings, your personal belongings, and possibly even the home. Your partner would face the choice of fighting them for a share of your estate in court, or get nothing. Even if you wanted your children to inherit the whole of your estate, you could consider setting up a trust in your Will that would ensure your partner had some income, or the right to stay in the home for the rest of his/her life. See Property Trusts
- Your partner has children All your biological and adopted children are treated equally in the eyes of the law, so they will all inherit from you whether they come from a current or previous relationship. Your partner’s children are not included, no matter how much you may think of them as “yours”. If you would like them to have a share in your estate, you have to make a Will.
Marriage, civil partnership, and divorce
Marriage or registering a civil partnership will cancel any previous Will. However, you can make a will in “contemplation” of your marriage/civil partnership which will remain valid after the ceremony.
If, after having made a will, you get divorced (or end your civil partnership) the will is still valid, except for any bequest you made to your ex-husband/wife/civil partner, which becomes void. It is recommended that you make a new Will to avoid any confusion.
For further advice on how this affects your own circumstances, contact us for an appointment