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You’ve worked hard all of your life – perhaps built up some savings and paid off your mortgage. You’ve decided to leave everything you own to your partner, and then to your children. What could be simpler?
It may surprise you to learn that – even if your Will was drawn up by a solicitor or lawyer – the people you have chosen to inherit your assets when you die might not see a penny of them, for a number of different reasons.
Many couples make simple Mirror Wills which leave everything to each other – but these are riddled with problems. For example:
- If your partner needs care after your death, the Local Authority can take nearly everything – including the value of your home – leaving just £14,250 to pass on to children or grandchildren.
- Your partner can change their Will at any time so it doesn’t mirror yours. They don’t have to tell you.
- After your death, if your partner remarries, most if not all of your assets could go to their new partner – even if they promise you otherwise. Your children/grandchildren might not see a penny of your estate.
- After your death, your partner could sell your family home or release all of the equity and spend the money. There is no guarantee that your children/grandchildren will see any of the proceeds.
- If you leave money to a child and they then separate from their partner but they don’t divorce, their ex will be next in line to inherit from them, rather than your grandchildren from that marriage.
- If your child inherits from you before finalising their divorce, they may have to share the inheritance with their ex.
- If your child gets into financial difficulty, their creditors could take their inheritance, without your grandchildren getting a penny.
- If your child should die and leave everything to their husband or wife who then remarries, your grandchildren are unlikely to inherit anything.
These are just a few common scenarios that illustrate the problems with Mirror Wills. These can be resolved by making a different type of Will – known as a Trust Will.
Claims by ‘dependents’
Another reason that your Will might not be final is that anyone can apply to the Court and say that you should have left them something in your Will, when you did not. This applies even if you deliberately leave the person out of your Will and write a separate letter of wishes making your intentions very clear.
To apply to the Court, the person must be your partner, former partner (who has not remarried), cohabitee for at least two years prior to your death, your child (including adult children), someone who was treated as your child, or someone who you “maintained”.
In such cases, the Court will look at all circumstances such as the size of your estate, the needs of the beneficiaries who were named in the Will, and your conduct prior to your death.
The claim could be successful, even if the relationship you had with the person concerned broke down a long time before your death. In a recent case which was heard by various courts between 2007 and 2015, a daughter challenged her mother’s Will, having been left nothing at all. During her mother’s lifetime the daughter had attempted to reconcile the relationship three times, but each time failed. Consequently she had no relationship with her mother and had been entirely financially independent for over 26 years. Although most of her mother’s money had been left to charity, the daughter (eventually) won her case. The Court of Appeal awarded her £163,000 (Ilot v Mitson  EWCA Civ 797), made up of £143,000 to purchase her Housing Association property, and £20,000 on top as ‘additional income’.
Had the mother made some provision for her daughter in her Will, it is possible the daughter’s claim would have been unsuccessful.
Get in touch
We have prepared a free, helpful information pack explaining more about how to avoid some of the above problems. Fill in your details below to receive your pack. You can also call us for your pack on 0800 788 0500 or email email@example.com.
We have locations across the UK and we can also cater for home visits. We would be happy to review your current Will with you, without obligation – or if you don’t have a Will, we can explain the various options available to you. Just call us on 0800 788 0500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment with your nearest office.