March 14, 2016

Not having a Will could pose problems for unmarried couples

If a couple has never married or entered into a civil partnership, and either partner dies without making a Will, the one left behind may not be a beneficiary of the deceased's estate and could end up getting nothing.

Assets would likely go to children – if there are any – or possibly to estranged husbands or wives, parents or siblings. In the absence of close relatives, it could well be the Government which benefits.

A legal journal recently reported on the case of a bereaved woman, whose long-term partner had not updated his Will. This meant that when he died from a heart attack in 2012, his share of the couple's house passed to his estranged wife.

His partner, Joy Williams, had to go to court in a fight to remain at the three-bedroom home and though the Judge ultimately ruled in her favour she described the whole process as “traumatic”.

The Law Society has now made the point that an up-to-date Will would have prevented a protracted legal battle and a lot of emotional upheaval for Ms Williams.

Jonathan Smithers, the president of the organisation, said: “This case is an important reminder for unmarried couples to make sure they have a valid and up-to-date Will, and to seek expert legal advice regarding any co-owned property, if they intend their current partner to inherit upon their death.

“Making a Will is extremely important. Solicitors have the necessary qualifications and training to address the often complex issues associated with drafting a will and can help ensure that your estate is left to those who you wish to inherit after your death.”

For legal advice on drafting or updating a Will, please contact Tony Millson and Deanna Hurst in Royds’ Private Client team.

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