If you're not married to your partner (or have not formed a civil partnership) and you die before you make a will, your partner won't automatically inherit anything from you. It doesn’t matter how long you were together. It doesn’t matter how committed you were. Instead, the law dictates that everything will go to your nearest blood relative, regardless of your wishes. In fact, if you don't leave a will, the Crown is more likely to automatically inherit from you than your partner!
What happens if you haven’t made a will and:
You are still ‘technically’ married to somebody else
If you are separated but not yet divorced from your husband, wife, or civil partner, they will inherit the bulk of your estate. They would get your personal possessions and at least the first £250,000 (plus a life interest in half of anything that is left) – even though you’d probably want this to go to your current partner or your children. Your children will only get something if your estate is worth more than £250,000. And your unmarried partner, as always, will get nothing. If you have no children, your ex would get the first £450,000 and half of anything that is left.
You have children, a partner, and aren’t married
If you have children (and aren’t married, or are divorced) the whole estate will be divided between your children. This may seem good on the face of it, but could cause real problems between your children and your partner. The children would own any savings, your personal belongings, and possibly even the home; your partner would have no right to anything. If your children are still under 18 they wouldn’t be able to negotiate a change, so your partner would face the choice of fighting them for a share of your estate in court, or get nothing. We might like to think our partner and children will always treat each other in the way we would like, but we can never be sure what will happen in the future. Even if you wanted your children to inherit the whole of your estate, there are better ways of doing it – perhaps a trust that would ensure your partner had some income, or the right to stay in the home for the rest of his/her life.
You have step-children
All your biological and adopted children are treated equally in the eyes of the law, so they will all inherit from you whether they come from a current or previous relationship. Your partner’s children are not included, no matter how much you may think of them as “yours”. If you would like them to have a share in your estate, you need a will.
You haven’t appointed a guardian
If you have children under the age of 18, and are the only person with Parental Responsibility for them, you need to appoint a guardian. If you don’t do this, it will be very hard for people to know what you wanted to happen. With all the goodwill in the world, your family and friends could fight over what to do and damage their relationships, and your kids could end up being raised by someone who you wouldn’t have chosen.
Obtaining a new will isn’t expensive – Wikivorce offers solicitor written Wills for just £49.