The importance of making a will

Do you know who your assets will go to when you die? Make sure you have a will in place or you won’t have a say.

New rules came into effect in England and Wales on 1 October 2014, changing who potentially benefits from your estate once you die. If you have a valid will in place then you will not be affected by these changes, but if you die and have no will in place then there are intestacy rules that dictate who will inherit by law.

Before October, if you died leaving a spouse or civil partner behind, but you have no children, your surviving partner would receive the first £450,000 of your estate. Anything over this amount would then be shared with your remaining blood relatives, such as parents and siblings. The revised rules have changed this and now mean that your surviving partner would receive everything.

Previously, if you had children and were married or in a civil partnership, the amount your surviving partner received was reduced to £250,000. Anything over this amount was then split in half, with half going to the children and the other half used to provide an income to the surviving partner for the rest of their life. If there was anything left on the subsequent death of the surviving partner, then it would then pass to the children. The new rules mean that the surviving partner still gets the first £250,000 and anything above this is split in half. Half still goes to the surviving partner, but now this is absolutely and does not have to be used to provide an income, the other half is shared between the children.

Of course, you may have children and are cohabiting. In these circumstances your surviving partner gets nothing if you die without a will, and the number of years you have been together is irrelevant. Your children will be first in line to claim your estate, followed by your blood relatives, so your co-habiting partner would be ruled out of the equation unless you make a will.

For those who haven’t made a will and die with no surviving relatives, HM Treasury will receive everything, so if you want to be certain who will benefit from your estate when you die then you should consider making a will. It’s the only way to be sure that your remaining assets go to who you want to receive them once you’re no longer around.

The rules are complicated further if you live in Scotland, so those North of the border should seek additional guidance.

Making a will is not meant to face you with mortality, but is something that does need to be considered and appropriate action taken to ensure that your wishes are carried out.

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