Many people tend to see writing a will as something that should only be done later in life. However, a recent survey found that almost 60% of eligible Britons have not yet written a will*, meaning that they have no control over how their assets will be apportioned in the event of their death.

The Law Society has published a useful article that highlights 5 times in life that you should think about making a will, or updating the one currently in place:

1.    If you buy a house

Buying a house is, for most people, the biggest purchase they will make in their lifetime. As such, it’s important that your share of the property ends up in the right hands. Failing to update your will (or not having one at all) means that the house may be subject to the rules of intestacy, where the law will determine who inherits the estate.  

Other things to consider:

  • If you own the house as joint tenants, your share will automatically pass to the co-owner in the event of your death. If you don’t want this to happen, you will need to change ownership of the house to tenants-in-common. A solicitor can do this on your behalf.
  • If you own the house as tenants-in-common, you will need to specify in your will who you want to inherit your share of the property; this might be the co-owner, your partner or your children. 

2.    If you're in a serious relationship

Unless you make (or amend) your will, your partner will not inherit any or your estate, no matter how long you have been together. If you want a long-term partner or their children to inherit any of your estate, this needs to be specified in a will.

Other things to consider:

  • If you want your partner to be responsible for your children in the event of your death but they are not their biological parent, you can speak to a solicitor about getting them named as a legal guardian. 
  • If you want your partner to inherit money in a bank account owned solely by you, this needs to be specified in your will. Your partner won’t be able to access any of the money in a bank account owned solely by you, even if they have been contributing money to it.

3.    If you get married

When you marry your partner (or form a civil partnership), any existing will that either you or they had in place automatically becomes invalid. For some, this will mean that their assets will not be divided as they had intended as the estate automatically becomes subject to the rules of intestacy. 

Other things to consider:

  • Under the rules on intestacy, your husband/wife/civil partner automatically inherits your entire estate. If you wish for your children or any other parties to inherit your estate, then you will need to specify this in a will.
  • If you are planning on making a will in anticipation of getting married, this needs to be stated clearly in the will otherwise it may be necessary to amend the will once you are married. 

4.    If you have a child

If you have children, making a will ensures that they are cared for by the right person in the event of your death. If you die without making a will, there’s a possibility that your children could be put into foster care whilst suitable guardians are appointed by the court. 

Other things to consider: 

  • Unless your estate is worth more than £250,000 or if your spouse has also passed away, your children are not automatically entitled to any inheritance. 
  • You should appoint legal guardians who you can trust to take care of your children in the event of your death and ensure that they are happy to take on this responsibility.
  • You can also make arrangements to provide for your children financially, such as a setting up a trust which can only be accessed by them when they reach a certain age.

5.    If you get divorced

Even if you are still married but not living together, or if you are in the process of getting a divorce, in the eyes of the law you are still married and any existing arrangement will be still be valid. If you don’t have a will in place, your ex-partner will stand to inherit your share of the estate even if you don’t want them to.

Other things to consider:

  • You should choose new executors of your will if your ex-partner was previously your executor. 
  • If you have children, and your ex-partner does not have parental responsibility, you will need to appoint legal guardians.
  • You will need to decide who will inherit your estate; this may be your children or other close relatives. 
  • If you and your ex-partner are home owners, you should consider speaking to a solicitor about changing your ownership of the property to tenants-in-common, enabling you to leave your share of the property to someone of your choice, rather than it automatically going to your ex-partner.

Want to know more?

QualitySolicitors Davisons have considerable experience in will-writing, estate and probate matters. If you’d like to know more about the process of preparing a will, or amending the one you currently have in place, you can speak to one of our experts. Call us on 0121 514 5279 to arrange an initial conversation, free of charge and with no obligation. 

* (Source: thisismoney.co.uk)