31 May 2017
While you can make a Will at any age, there are a number of stages in life when it becomes increasingly important to set out your wishes.
So, what are these life stages, and why should they prompt you into making or updating your Will?
1 – Being in a relationship
These days not all couples choose to get married. If this relates to you, remember that if you pass away without having made a Will, your partner won’t be automatically entitled to receive anything that you solely own. This is because the law will decide who gets what, and the law doesn’t automatically provide for unmarried partners.
2 – Buying a house
When you buy a property with someone else, you need to decide how you are going to legally own it with the co-owner as this can impact who is going to receive your share if you die. A property is a big asset, and you’ll want to take the right advice when making your Will to make sure that it goes to the person you want.
3 – Getting married
Tying the knot automatically invalidates a Will you’ve already written (unless that Will specifically states that it was made in expectation of that marriage). So, after saying “I do”, be sure to make a new Will. Failing to do this could have adverse consequences, such as accidentally disinheriting your children from a previous relationship.
4 – Having children
A Will allows you to appoint legal guardians for children under the age of 18. If you don’t do this and the worst should happen, the Court may ultimately decide who should raise your kids. This can be stressful for those left behind, and the Judge might not pick the person you would have wanted.
5 – Getting separated or divorced
If you separate but remain married, you’re still legally wed, meaning your ex stands to inherit the majority of your estate. The only way to prevent this is by making (or updating) a Will.
On the other hand, if you get divorced and you have an existing Will, then your Will remains valid but your ex-spouse will be treated as if he/she had died for the purposes of interpreting your Will. This can cause unintended consequences so it’s also best to write a new Will after getting divorced to ensure your wishes are clear.
6 – Changing beneficiaries
Families change all the time with births, marriages, divorces and deaths, as do personal relationships with friends. If the people you’d like to inherit from your estate change, you need to record this in a Will. Otherwise certain people might miss out, while others might inherit, even if you didn’t want them to.
So, when we approach life’s milestones, consider how making or updating your existing Will can help give you peace of mind for the future.
James Antoniou, Head of Wills at Co-op Legal Services.
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