Hollie Skipper from local solicitors Wiseman Lee explains why making a will is important if you wish to avoid complications – and costs – for those left behind after your death
Husband Tim and his wife Cathy have two minor children. When Cathy died without a will (intestate), her jointly owned property with Tim automatically passed to Tim by survivorship, together with the remainder of Cathy’s estate worth £100,000.
After a few years, Tim remarried in his 40s. His new wife, Liz, has two minor children from a previous relationship.
After their marriage, neither of them made a new will. In any event, their marriage would have revoked any will that they had individually put in place before their marriage.
Tim and Liz bought a new house together as joint tenants. Tim was healthy and active but died three years later in a climbing accident when his children were still under the age of 18.
Liz is now the sole owner of the house she bought with Tim and her children may well inherit that property on her death if she too dies without a will. Furthermore, Liz would be entitled to a significant portion of Tim’s other assets and could effectively receive his entire estate, which is likely to include the assets of his first marriage. Tim and Cathy’s children could receive nothing. Only if Tim left other significant assets, after Liz had received her share under the rules of intestacy, would his children inherit any remainder, which is likely to be a small portion of Tim’s estate.
It is tempting to believe these facts are somewhat extreme, and the outcome described unlikely, but situations like this are common and relate to most second marriages, even in later life.
With the proper advice, Tim and Liz could have made wills after their marriage to provide adequate provision for each other but still ultimately protect their own children’s interests in assets they may have amassed during their previous relationships.
This whole issue is obviously sensitive and for many a taboo subject. However, it is estimated that over 30 million UK adults have not made a will.
Covid-19 appears to show growing evidence that younger people in their 30s and 40s have started the will-making process. The sad but perhaps inevitable issue is the pandemic has caused many people to focus on thinking beyond tomorrow and next year and to the making of a will.
Putting a will in place does not need to be expensive and there are other services, such as lasting powers of attorney and declarations of trust, which could also leave your affairs in much better shape.
Wiseman Lee is located at 9–13 Cambridge Park, Wanstead, E11 2PU. For more information, call 020 8215 1000