How do I talk to my family about my Will?

Having a conversation with your family about your Will can be a daunting prospect. For many, it's easier to put off or just avoid altogether. But by making sure your family understand your wishes in your Will, you can make things a lot easier for the loved ones you leave behind.

For advice on how to talk to your family about your Will, read our guide.

Is my partner automatically entitled to my assets, without a Will?

The short answer is no.

It's a lot more complicated than that.

In England and Wales, if the people concerned were married or in a civil partnership, the surviving partner will receive everything but only if the deceased has no children. Otherwise, the spouse will receive the first £250,000 of the estate, and whatever’s left will be divided equally between the spouse and the children.

In Scotland, it gets more complex when there’s no Will. The surviving spouse or civil partner is entitled to the house of the deceased, up to a certain value, and also a proportion of the deceased’s furniture and cash. After that, the spouse and children are entitled to a share of the deceased’s remaining ‘moveable estate’, which includes things like money, shares, cars, furniture and jewellery. Once that has been distributed, the remainder of the estate, including any land or additional property, is distributed between the deceased’s children. In the absence of children, surviving parents or siblings take priority over a surviving spouse.

Things become even more complicated if a couple are not married or in a civil partnership. Unmarried partners or cohabitees as partners have no automatic right to inherit. The much-cited ‘Common law marriage’ is a complete legal myth. This means that if there isn’t a Will, the surviving unmarried partner will be forced to fight for their share of the inheritance; sometimes this means bringing a legal claim against their own children!

Can I cut family members out of my Will?

You can cut out family members from your Will but certain people are entitled to reasonable financial provision by law. Broadly speaking these are spouses, partners, children and others who are financially dependent upon you and the rules are set out in the Inheritance (Provision for Families and Dependents) Act.

So not making provision for a person who may otherwise expect to inherit requires careful thought and expert legal advice from a suitably qualified and experienced solicitor; otherwise, it risks being challenged.