Many people assume that if they were to die then their partner would inherit their belongings. This is not true – even if you are married or have a civil partnership. The partner of a friend of mine died unexpectedly some years ago and he actually had to sell the house in order to give half of it to her relatives. I know, we don’t expect the relatives to come swooping down like vultures but it really can happen.
The couple I knew were not married but even if they had been the situation would still have been awkward as my friend’s partner died intestate. That is, she didn’t leave a valid will. There’s a thing called the statutory legacy which is the amount payable to a surviving spouse or civil partner from the estate of his or her spouse or civil partner dying intestate. It is currently set at £125,000 where the deceased leaves a surviving spouse or civil partner and children, and £200,000 where the deceased leaves a surviving spouse or civil partner and parents or siblings, but no children. From 1 February 2009 this lump sum will increase to £250,000 and £450,000 respectively.
Justice Minister Bridget Prentice said:
‘This increase will give extra protection to married couples and civil partners whose spouse or civil partner dies without making a will. But it also highlights how important it is for both men and women to make arrangements for their loved ones in the event of their deaths.
‘Married couples and civil partners should not assume that when their spouse or civil partner dies, they will automatically be entitled to everything. It is up to individuals to make sure that their wishes are respected by making a will.
‘My message to people is, don’t leave it to chance. Make sure your loved ones are properly provided for by leaving a will.’
I’m glad to see extra protection for partners but to be honest, it would be better not to die intestate. You can take a risk and make a will based on something you buy in a supermarket (last time I looked it was around £25) or you can spend a bit more (you can get a comprehensive will done for between £150 and £700 depending on complexity) and then you can make sure your wishes are carried out in the event of your death. In fact, while I’m on the subject…
A good will can save you from paying extra tax – or rather your beneficiaries from paying extra tax. Married couples and registered civil partners can benefit from significant tax saving by putting tax-efficient wills in place. You can also protect your children’s inheritance from in the event that your spouse remarries after your death – unless of course you want your estate to go to your spouse’s new family instead?
One last scary thing before I go. What if you and your partner die intestate and you have children? Did you know that the courts could end up appointing legal guardians? How do you protect your kid’s inheritance?
OK, more cheerful topics next time.