Christmas is a popular time for marriage proposals and as we approach the latter stages of 2023, this question might be on your mind. Setting out who you want to benefit from your estate might not be the most romantic task, but it’s an important one. If you’re getting married or thinking of popping the question, reviewing your will is an essential step. Read on to find out why.
Even if you’ve already written a will, marriage will automatically revoke it. So, if you passed away, you wouldn’t have a valid will and your assets would be distributed according to intestacy rules.
Your spouse or civil partner would be your main beneficiary under intestacy rules. Depending on your circumstances, they may be the only person to benefit from your estate.
For some, this may align with their wishes. However, for others, their wishes could be very different. For instance, if you have children from a previous relationship, getting married could mean they no longer receive anything if you pass away. Or other wishes, such as leaving some of your estate to charity, could be overlooked.
Under intestacy rules, if you have no direct descendants, your entire estate would go to your partner. If you have children, grandchildren, or other direct descendants, your partner is entitled to all assets, including property, up to £270,000, as well as your personal possessions, no matter their value.
If your estate exceeds £270,000, half of the amount above the threshold would go to your partner, and the remainder would be divided equally between your children.
So, if you don’t review your will after marriage, you could unintentionally disinherit loved ones.
As well as potentially meaning your wishes aren’t carried out, not reviewing your will could lead to tension and disputes when you pass away.
Research from JMW solicitors suggests 60% of people are likely to contest a will if they feel they have been wrongfully excluded. More than half of those said they would continue to contest the will even if it progressed to court.
Disputes can slow down the probate process, be costly, and affect relationships among your beneficiaries. Being proactive and reviewing your will when you marry could help avoid conflict among your loved ones.
A useful first step could be to consider who you’d like to benefit from your estate when you pass away. The response may be very different from your previous will. As well as individuals, you may want to consider leaving a legacy to charities or other organisations too.
Once you’ve decided on your beneficiaries, you need to consider how you’d like your estate to be divided. There are many different options to consider. For example, you could outline that you want your estate to be evenly split between your beneficiaries. Or you may want particular assets to go to an individual.
Understanding what assets you hold and their value can be useful information when you’re thinking about how to pass them on. Financial planning could help you understand your estate and how you’d like to divide it.
You don’t need to take legal advice when you’re writing your will, but it could be valuable. It may help eliminate mistakes and ensure your wishes are clear. Professional advice can be especially useful if your wishes are complex.
For example, you may want to leave your estate, including your home, to children from a previous relationship, while also ensuring your partner would be secure during their lifetime. A solicitor could help you create a will that states your partner can continue living in your home, but it will be passed on to your children when your partner dies.
When writing a new will, it’s important you explain that it revokes all previous wills and codicils. You should also destroy your old will to avoid any confusion about which should be followed. It’s often a good idea to review your will periodically and after major life events to ensure it still reflects your wishes.
As well as setting out who you’d like to benefit from your assets, your estate plan could consider how to divide them and potential tax implications. We can help you assess your estate and create a plan that suits your goals. Please contact us to arrange a meeting.
Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.
The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate estate planning, tax planning or will writing.
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