Only 56% of UK adults have updated their Will in the last five years, meaning around half of Wills are out of date. To raise awareness, Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) have been hosting “Update your Will week” from 23rd to 29th January 2023.
Anna O’Mara is an SFE accredited Solicitor and Partner in our Wills, Trusts and Probate Team. In this article, Anna discusses three case studies* to demonstrate some issues that have arisen when a person has died without an up to date Will.
CASE STUDY ONE – Ensure your loved ones are protected
Tom and Christine had been in a relationship for over 20 years. Like many couples, they chose not to marry. Tom had 2 adult children from a previous relationship who had both moved to Australia and whom he had not seen for 30 years. Tom and Christine’s home was held in Tom’s sole name as it was easier for him to get a mortgage when they first purchased the property. Tom always meant to get around to creating a will to protect Christine, but he kept putting it off. Unfortunately, Tom died suddenly and unexpectedly without a will in place. As Tom had died without a will (intestate) it came as a shock to Christine that she was not protected by the intestacy rules. The intestacy rules meant that Tom’s children were entitled to Tom’s estate including the property. Christine was left having to apply to the Court for financial provision from the Estate, which was costly, time-consuming and very stressful. This could have been avoided if Tom had died with a will in place carefully setting out his wishes.
CASE STUDY TWO – Review your Will after a major event
Gemma and Jessica were a wealthy couple who had been in a relationship for many years. Jessica had adult children from a previous relationship. Gemma and Jessica decided to marry. They had wills in place prior to their decision to marry, but they did not update their wills. Unfortunately, 5 years after their wedding day, Jessica died in a tragic accident. She died believing her children would be provided for, because she had a will leaving a large legacy to her children. However, as a will is revoked on entering a marriage or civil partnership (unless it is made ‘in contemplation’ of such marriage or civil partnership) Jessica died intestate, and the bulk of her estate passed to her wife, Gemma. Jessica’s children did not receive the inheritance that Jessica would have wanted them to have. This would have been addressed if Jessica had reviewed her will after she and Gemma made the decision to marry.
CASE STUDY THREE – Protect your Assets
David and Lynne had worked hard during their lifetime to pay off their mortgage and looked forward to a happy retirement. They had simple mirror Wills in place leaving their estate to each other, and then on the second death to their children. They owned their home together as joint tenants meaning that when David died, the property passed into Lynne’s sole name. After David had died, Lynne spent the last 15 years of her life in a care home. As the property was in Lynne’s sole name, the full value of the property was used to fund Lynne’s stay in the care home. When Lynne died there was very little left in her estate for her children. Lynne and David could have looked at ways to potentially mitigate their care home fees if they had taken advice from a Solicitor.
How often should I update my Will?
We recommend that you update your Will about every 5 years, or if there has been a major event within your family (such as divorce, marriage or the birth/death of a family member).
What should I do if I think I may need to update my Will?
At Sills & Betteridge we will be able to discuss your individual circumstances and give advice tailored to you. Call our team on 0800 542 4245 to speak to someone in our Wills, Trusts and Probate department about how we may help.
*names and some details have been changed to protect confidentiality.