#Myth 1: Your partner, spouse or civil partner is entitled to everything after you die

Over 60% of adults in England and Wales die each year without having made a valid Will. Part of this is down to people thinking that they don’t need to make one, as their family will be taken care of anyway. However, although you might think that when you die, your spouse or civil partner would be entitled to all of your assets, this simply isn’t the case. It is, in fact, a myth.

If you’ve had children with your spouse or civil partner, and you then die without making a Will, there are strict intestacy rules, which dictate how your assets will be distributed. Currently, this means your surviving partner, would receive a statutory legacy of £270,000 plus interest from the estate, your personal belongings and half of the remaining estate.

This may seem like a lot of money, but what if the property you live in is worth more than that and your children are entitled to receive half of anything over that amount. They could force the sale of the property, which could be hugely stressful for your surviving spouse.

If the children are under 18 and the estate is worth more than the statutory legacy, then the half share of the remaining estate would be held on trust for the children until they reach adulthood (or marry under that age). This could cause practical difficulties for the surviving spouse if they are left with insufficient funds to meet their own needs, whilst the remaining funds are held in trust for the minor children.

#Myth 2: Your children include stepchildren and foster children

Stepchildren and foster children never inherit under the intestacy rules. It is necessary to make a Will to provide for them.

To help avoid any family feuds after you’ve gone, the best way to control the distribution of assets is by making a Will to ensure there is adequate provision for your surviving spouse and it will allow them to utilise inheritance tax exemptions.

#Myth 3 : everything will pass to my common law partner

It’s also important to note that if you’re not married to your partner, even if you were living together when you passed away, your surviving partner is particularly vulnerable without a Will. They will have no automatic rights to your estate and intestacy rules will determine what happens to your assets. For example, if you have any children together, all of your assets will bypass your partner and go to your children. If there are no children at the time of your death, the assets will pass to your parents. If your parents are no longer alive, the assets will to go to your brother / sister, half-brother / half-sister, grandparents, uncle/ aunt and so on. If no relatives, however distant, are alive, your assets will pass to the Crown, unless your surviving partner can prove — which is not easy — that they owned an asset (or part of an asset) on your behalf.

#Myth 4 : my debts die with me

Debts are settled from the estate following death and then the net estate is distributed.

If you’re thinking about making a Will, please contact Pardeep Bancil in the Wills, Trusts and Probate team at pardeep.bancil@bpcollins.co.uk who will be able to create a robust and bespoke Will tailored to your specific circumstances.

If you are a surviving partner and would like to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for financial provision please contact Craig Williams in the dispute resolution team at craig.williams@bpcollins.co.uk for further advice. Alternatively, you can call 01753 889995.

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Sharon Heselton
Principal Lawyer (Non Solicitor)

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