Exactly a year ago, the importance of leaving a will was highlighted in the newspapers by reports that Rik Mayall, English comedian, landed his family with a hefty inheritance tax bill by not writing one .
As many of you may recall the star of The Young Ones and Bottom died suddenly last June, at the premature age of 56. The probate records, which showed he had not made a will, led to speculation about potential inheritance taxes. It is now likely that his family lost many thousands of pounds, which went instead to the government.
This could have so easily been avoided. However, at QualitySolicitors Amphlett Lissimore we can say this case isn't an unusual one, many people put off writing a will because they think they are too young to worry about it, or they find the idea upsetting. But if you die without leaving instructions about your assets, they will be divided according to the rules of intestacy. Under these rules, which were changed last October, unmarried partners may get nothing and spouses may receive significantly less than they had expected. About 50% of adults do not have a valid will.
What do the Intestacy rules say?
The intestacy rules are complex and depend on whether you are married or in a civil partnership, and whether you have children. In England and Wales, if you are married or in a civil relationship but have no children, everything goes to your spouse or partner. If you have children, assets up to £250,000 (not including jointly held property and personal possessions) go to your spouse or partner. Anything above this level will be split equally between the spouse/partner and the children.
If couples simply live together, but they are not married, there is no entitlement under the intestacy rules. If there are children, the estate goes to them. Otherwise, the dead person’s assets go to their parents, siblings or their next closest relative. If there are no blood relatives, the whole estate goes to the Treasury.
What happens when Jointly Owned Property?
The rules vary depending on whether a couple, married or unmarried, own their property as “beneficial joint tenants” or “tenants in common”. If they are beneficial joint tenants, the surviving partner automatically inherits the other’s share of the property. However, it does not automatically pass to the survivor if they are tenants in common. This kind of arrangement can be useful if you have remarried and want your half of the property to pass to the children from your first marriage. Property inherited by a surviving partner does not count as part the estate when it is valued under the intestacy rules. Personal possessions, such as jewellery, known as chattels, go entirely to the spouse or civil partner, and are not considered part of the estate.
If you now understand the importance of having a will and you still not having one, have a look here to see how we might help you out.