Everyone who can, should make a will for the sake of their families. Not to do so can be extremely irresponsible and cause unnecessary hardship to those left behind.
It is important not to wait until you are sick or dying to make a will. This is because a will needs to be carefully thought through and planned both from a family perspective and from a tax perspective. This is unlikely to happen when you are sick or dying.
If you become separated and/or divorced, it is very important to revisit the terms of a previously made will because your status has now changed and it may be advisable to alter the provisions and terms of the will and to rethink same. If you become or are a single parent it is extremely important to make a will.
All wills, no matter your particular circumstances, need careful planning and advice and you should take legal advice. The actual drafting of a will and the execution of it to ensure that it meets legal requirements is complicated. Many a homemade will has fallen because of the very strict requirements. Our advice would be that saving money in this way is false economy when it involves such an important document and you should consult with a solicitor.
Husbands and Wives are required by law to leave at least 1/3rd of their assets to the other. Property in joint names is excluded since under law it falls to the survivor automatically. If a husband or wife dies without making a will, 2/3 rds of the deceased property goes to the surviving spouse by law and 1/3 is divided equally among the children. If there are no children and no will everything will go to the surviving spouse. On the face of it this may seem fair enough however, it does not take account of any particular circumstances that may exist in individual cases and will not suit many families.
Children do not have an automatic right of inheritance from their parents in the same way that spouses do from each other as outlined above. However, the law does provide protection for children. Children can make an application to the court challenging the terms of a will where there is none or limited provision made under the will for them. Many such cases are successful. However, such an application can often lead to serious family disputes which frequently carry on long after the case itself has resolved. A court dispute will also incur substantial costs all of which could be avoided with proper planning.
Unmarried parents have no inheritance obligations against each other as the law presently stands however if the Civil Partnership Bill becomes legislation this will change. The children of unmarried parents have the same inheritance rights as children born to married parents, ie they have the same right to make a claim against either parent’s estate.