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The doctorine of survivorship…. mutual accidents and intestacy

Jul 29, 2018

Perhaps you are thinking… why do I need a Will? If I do, should I write it myself?

‘The bank owns my house, I’m married so everything will go to my spouse anyway’.

Well that all depends. Is it likely your estate (including any life insurance or death in service benefit) would be less than £250,000? If not then it may not be that simple. If you have children then everything over £250,000 will have to be split between your spouse and the children, which the children will then inherit at 18.

Even if it is under the threshold – no one will have any powers to do anything until they have applied to the Court for a Grant of Representation – which sometimes takes months. In the meantime there would be no access to any funds, no powers to deal with anything. A Will authorises the Executor to deal with the property etc straight away – sometimes a Grant is not even required.

For young parents – in the event of a disaster – who would look after your children? With no surviving parent with Parental Responsibility or official guardians there would be no choice but for the children to be placed into care until the Courts could authorise a legal guardian.

Maybe you are unconcerned about what should happen in the event of a disaster? If you and your family (spouse and children) are killed in a mutual accident then surely your estate would go to your surviving family? Not necessarily – if you own a house as joint tenants (or a bank account) then the younger of you will inherit regardless of what the Will or an intestacy says – and the property would pass in accordance with their Will or intestacy – your surviving family may get nothing. This is the rule that always surprises my clients. Worse still if you have estrangement of a parent – on intestacy, leaving no children, your surviving parents would inherit 50/50, even if you have not seen one of them for 30 years.

Writing your own Will may seem easy – especially if you buy a Willpack or similar. Ask yourself a question – what document is more important than one that deals with all your worldly goods, your home and life savings? Do you understand what would happen in every conceivable eventuality? Do you understand exactly what the text and phrases say and what they mean in their legal context, and their effect? If not, why take the risk? Single Wills are usually no more than £150.00, mirror Wills £250.00.