Something to think about – Wills for unmarried couples

Wills for unmarried couples

We all know how important Wills are but about 50% of adults in England and Wales don’t have a VALID Will in place. In this short article we are going to talk about writing a Will in England and Wales and specifically about what to be aware of if you’re unmarried.

When it comes to wills and estate planning, being married or in a civil partnership means that there are certain legal protections and benefits already in place for your partner. This is not the case if you are unmarried, so it’s important to make sure that your Will accurately reflects what you want to happen with your estate after you pass away.

If you’re married or in a civil partnership and you pass away without leaving a Will, your partner will inherit the majority of your estate (specifically the first £270,000 plus half of anything left over (if you have children)). However, if you’re not married or in a civil partnership and there is no Will in place, your partner may not receive anything at all, despite you wanting to make provision for them. In short, if you’d like an unmarried partner to benefit, you need to write a Will.

It’s also important to consider who else you may want to benefit from your Will. If you have children, it’s important to make sure they are provided for, both financially and with guardianship arrangements if you are not able to care for them yourself.

Earlier this week Money Saving Expert – Martin Lewis urged people to have those “unpleasant” chats with friends and families and he highlighted the importance of Wills. He added it was important to be “candid and blunt” and commented on how important it was for unmarried couples to get wills in place.

He also wrote: “What I’m about to explain isn’t pleasant, but it is important. The financial and emotional cost to loved ones of ignoring this can be dire. So whether with parents or children, I’d encourage you to have the ‘unpleasant issues’ chat”.

He added: “I wouldn’t frame it that way, but being candid, blunt and as unemotional as possible. And perhaps the odd eye may tear, that’s fine, it just means they love you”.

During our discussions with clients, we are skilled and able to discuss difficult topics in ways where they are easy to understand and where consequences are easily and carefully considered.

So with that in mind, let’s consider something called ‘sideways disinheritance’. This is something that is becoming more common and often where professional advice isn’t taken.

What is ‘sideways disinheritance’?

Sideways Disinheritance is where a Will is written leaving everything to your partner and nothing for any children you may have, perhaps because you believe that your partner will provide for them upon their demise, or perhaps because you have mirror Wills (wills for couples) where everything goes to your partner and then on second death, down to the children. This can be particularly problematic if the partner then remarries in the future (long after you’ve passed) and their new spouse inherits everything, leaving your children with nothing. This can be easily avoided by taking professional advice and making specific provisions in your Will for your children but doesn’t mean that your partner cannot benefit. It’s common to use trusts so that, for example, your partner can continue to live in your house but to ensure that your children benefit in the long run.

In summary, if you’re unmarried it’s important to consider carefully what you want to happen with your estate and make sure that you seek professional advice.

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