If the past year has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected. Unfortunately in life, things don’t always go the way we plan – sometimes leaving us caught completely off guard.
You may think that having a will in place will offer a degree of certainty in how your estate is managed.
However, not all wills are equal, and in the cases of some DIY wills or entry level documents, they may not allow your wishes to be followed at all, potentially leaving your estate to the rules of intestacy.
Take, for example, a couple without children who have mirror wills in place, specifying that the remaining spouse receives the entirety of the estate upon the first death. This is not an uncommon arrangement. But what if both were to pass away at the same time? Or what if, upon the death of their spouse, the surviving spouse was unable to make a new will before they themselves passed away – either due to ill health or lack of mental capacity?
A case involving such circumstances was recently heard in the High Court – involving married couple Margaret and Alan. Margaret passed away in February 2019, leaving her portion of the couple’s estate to her husband Alan. However, Alan passed away within three months of Margaret’s death, not having had the opportunity to successfully update his will. The entirety of the couple’s estate was therefore distributed amongst Alan’s side of the family – with Margaret’s closest relatives not being entitled to anything under intestacy rules.
This case serves to highlight that having a will in place doesn’t necessarily mean your wishes will be followed, and that a will needs to be carefully worded to look at and allow for several ‘what if’ scenarios.
Furthermore, there are the many thousands of people that die ‘intestate’ each year – without having a valid will in place. According to recent research, commissioned by Anglia Research, the number of people dying without a will increased by 60% across England and Wales between March and May 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.
There are many scenarios where the rules of intestacy are not set out to provide for close loved ones – especially unmarried couples or families where parents have remarried or have children from previous relationships.
A good Private Client solicitor will look at a number of eventualities and include appropriate wording to ensure the will covers these. Where significant life or family changes occur, especially where these involve death, marriage or children, updating your will shouldn’t be delayed, but should be treated as a priority.
For any help or advice in relation to will and probate planning, please get in touch.
Jill Waddington is an Associate Solicitor in the Private Client department.
For further advice or assistance on any aspect of Wills or estate planning, please contact Jill on 01457 761320 or email Jill@odonnellsolicitors.co.uk.