The short answer is that everyone should have an up to date Will to ensure that their wishes are put into effect after their death. However, it is particularly important to check whether you need to make, or amend a Will when you are going through any change in your life such as a separation or divorce.
If you are married or in a civil partnership and already have a Will then it is likely that this provides for your spouse or civil partner to inherit the majority, if not all, of your estate. However if you are separating or divorcing then you will probably want to change this so that you can benefit other people such as your children or other relatives.
If your estate is:
a) Worth less then £270,000; or
b) Worth more than £270,000 but you have no surviving children or grandchildren; then your spouse or partner will inherit all of your estate.
If your estate is worth more than £270,000 and you have surviving children or grandchildren then your spouse or partner will inherit:
a) the first £270,000 and your personal chattels (this is your personal belongings and other items including pets)
b) one half of the remaining balance
The remainder is divided between your children (or grandchildren if any of your children have passed away)
There are also some other assets you need to think about as they will not necessarily be covered by a Will.
For instance, it is quite common to have nominated a spouse or partner to receive the death benefits payable under a pension or life insurance. These nominations are separate to a Will and therefore you need to check whether any nominations need to be updated.
Secondly, you may own a property with your spouse or partner. If you do, then depending how the title to the property is held, your share in the event of your death could pass directly to your spouse or partner even if you have updated your Will. This will happen if you hold the property as ‘joint tenants’ and a lot of married couples do. You can however change this by severing the joint tenancy at any time.
If you have recently separated from your husband, wife or civil partner and would like some more information please contact one of the team in our Family department.