There are many common myths as to why people believe they do not need to create a Will. Some people believe that they do not need a Will as they have nothing to leave behind or that everything goes to their spouse after their death. Neither of these myths are true; everything has something to leave behind and your spouse is not entitled to everything you own after your death.
Prior Rights come into effect only when someone with a spouse/civil partner dies intestate. Prior Rights dictate that the surviving spouse/civil partner is entitled to up to £473,000 of the deceased’s heritable estate plus up to £329,000 worth of furnishing and up to £50,000 of cash if the deceased had children or up to £89,000 if the deceased had no children.
Legal Rights come into effect after Prior Rights if the deceased left a spouse/civil partner or automatically if the deceased died without a spouse/civil partner. Legal Rights dictate that the surviving spouse/civil partner is entitled to a third of the deceased’s moveable estate if they left children or half of the moveable estate if the deceased left no children. The deceased’s children are entitled to a third of the moveable estate if the deceased left a spouse/civil partner or half of the moveable estate if there is no spouse/civil partner. Unlike Prior Rights, Legal Rights still apply even if the deceased made a Will, however, beneficiaries of the Will cannot also claim their Legal Rights – they must accept what’s been left for them in the Will or claim Legal Rights.
Once Prior and Legal Rights have been established, anything left of the deceased’s estate is devolved to the deceased’s family in order of priority before finally falling to the Crown if there is no family left – this is known as ‘Free Estate’.
By creating a Will, you can dictate yourself how your estate should be shared after your death instead of letting the state decide for you. Creating a Will allows you to avoid Prior Rights on your estate and ensures that it is divided between your loved ones as you want it to be. Creating a Will also allows you to make charitable bequests, make provisions such as Trusts and the appointment of guardians for vulnerable loved ones, make sure your estate doesn’t fall to the state if you have no surviving relatives and allows you leave everything behind to your spouse/civil partner if you have no children. A Will also allows you to make provisions for your estate in the instance where you and your spouse/civil partner die together or within a short space of time of one another.
Despite these clear benefits for having a Will, a surprisingly high number of people in the UK do not have one in place resulting in complications between loved ones and state involvement in your affairs after your death. A simple Will document can avoid these complications and assure you that your affairs are in order and will be dealt with amicably after your death.