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Some people put off making a Will, seeing it as morbid, or just because it does not seem urgent. Others do not see the need for a Will, or for obtaining advice, making incorrect assumptions about the laws relating to wills and intestacy.
The three examples below show that it is important to seek advice and to make a Will to ensure your family is provided for after your death, in the way you would wish.
Jeremy, age 49, lives with Miranda, age 37. They have been together eight years but are not married.
They live with Brandon (10), Miranda’s son from a previous relationship, and their twins Robyn and Lauren (6). Brandon believes Jeremy is his dad. He has no contact with his birth father.
Jeremy has a 20 year old son, Alex, from his earlier marriage (now dissolved). They see each other occasionally.
The house is in Jeremy’s sole name. He and Miranda believe she has acquired rights as his common law wife.
Jeremy is knocked off his bike and killed.
Jeremy dies intestate. Under the rules of intestacy, each of Alex, Robyn and Lauren will inherit one third of the estate. Contrary to popular belief, Miranda has not acquired rights as a “common law wife”. Miranda and Brandon will not inherit anything. They will have to seek legal advice about making claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
Jeremy should have made a Will!
Florrie is 64 and is a foster carer who specialises in fostering young refugees. She owns a large house. She has one daughter, Nadine, age 40, who lives in Spain.
She has two adopted children, Véronique (24) and Sadiq (19) and a foster son, Mohammed (16). She has applied to adopt Mohammed but the assessment has only just started.
Florrie was married to Derek (70). They are estranged but never divorced.
Florrie suffers a fatal heart attack at her Zumba class.
If Florrie had not made a Will, under the rules of intestacy, all of her personal possessions and £250,000 would pass to Derek. The remainder of her estate would be split, with half going to Derek and the other half shared equally between Nadine, Véronique and Sadiq.
Mohammed would inherit nothing and would return to the care of the local authority.
Fortunately, Florrie had made a Will.
Line-Marie (45) and Harry (50) have been married for 15 years. They are well off and own a substantial house. They have no children. They made wills two years before they married, but have not updated them.
Line-Marie’s mother died three years ago. She is estranged from her father, Erik, who still lives in her native Netherlands. Harry’s parents are wealthy.
Harry wishes to leave money to his sister, Helena, whose business has recently failed. Line-Marie wishes to leave money to her niece Katje to enable her to study at university.
However, before they make their new wills, they are killed simultaneously in a freak yachting accident.
The wills made by Line-Marie and Harry seventeen years ago are invalidated by their subsequent marriage.
Where the order of deaths is unknown, the eldest is deemed to die first (in this case, Harry). If the house is in their names as joint tenants*, then that, and all their other assets in joint names, would pass to Line-Marie’s estate and on to her father Erik.
The first £250,000 of assets in Harry’s name will also pass to Line-Marie’s estate and on to Erik (including Harry’s share in the house, if they owned as tenants in common*).
The rest of Harry’s assets would pass equally between Line-Marie’s estate (and on to Erik) and Harry’s parents.
Neither Helena nor Katje would benefit and on the facts, are unlikely to have a claim under the 1975 Act against the estates.
Harry and Line-Marie should have made new Wills!
* There are actually two ways that you can own property.
The first is to own as joint tenants. As joint tenants each person is deemed to own 50% of the property and if one dies, then his or her share of the property would automatically pass to the survivor regardless of the terms of any Will.
The alternative is to own as tenants in common. As tenants in common you can own in equal or unequal shares. As tenants in common if one were to die, then his or her share of the property would not automatically pass to the survivor but would pass according to the terms of the deceased’s Will and, if there was no Will, according to the rules of intestacy.