Do You Need a Will if You Are Married?

Jan 10, 2024   ·   6 minute read
Do You Need a Will if You Are Married?

Will solicitor, Chris Strogen, is emphatic that you do need a Will if you are married. 

In this blog, we explain why you need a Will if you are married and how our Will solicitors at Evolve Family Law can write your Will or advice on whether an existing Will needs changing. 

For expert Will and estate planning advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form 

Why do you need a Will if you are married? 

Whether you are married or not, if you die without a Will then your assets (called your estate) pass under statutory intestacy rules. Who gets your money and estate depends on whether you are married or in a civil partnership and whether you have children or other extended family. 

The intestacy rules are inflexible and they may not reflect your wishes or be tax-efficient. Without a Will, it can be more difficult to administer your estate, especially if you own complicated assets. For example, you are a shareholder in a family business or you are self-employed as a sole trader or own a buy to let property portfolio. 

In addition, if the intestacy rules do not meet your family circumstances a qualifying relative may want to challenge the estate distribution and make a claim against the estate. They can do this by alleging that the intestacy rules do not make reasonable financial provision for them. 

The intestacy rules if you die without a Will and you are married 

The intestacy rules if you die without a Will and you are married depend on whether you have children.  

Step-children do not count as your children for this purpose as they are not biologically related to you. That’s the case even if you have always been very close to your step children. Your children from any previous relationships do count even if they are estranged from you or if at the date you pass away, they are financially independent with their own homes and families. Children includes adopted children and the descendants of your biological or adopted children. 

If you do not have children your husband, wife or civil partner will inherit your entire estate.  

If you do have children your husband, wife or civil partner will inherit: 

  • The first £322,000 of your estate 
  • All your personal possessions 
  • Half the rest of the estate. The remaining half is divided equally between your children  

The intestacy rules say that if a child has died before their parent, then the grandchild or the great grandchild of the deceased inherits in their parent’s place. 

As the intestacy rules are inflexible an estate claim could be brought. For example, your husband or wife may say that they need more than £322,000 and half the rest of the estate to meet their needs. Alternatively, if you jointly own a family home with your spouse as joint tenants, your surviving husband or wife will end up owning the family home as well as getting the first £322,000 of your estate and half the remainder of the estate. Depending on the size of your estate, that may not leave much for your children to inherit. 

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Why writing a Will is a good idea whether you are married or not 

Having a Will in place is always a good idea, whatever your personal circumstances. 

With a Will you can: 

  • Decide who should administer your estate and distribute the monies. The named people are called your executors. They can be family members, friends, a Will solicitor or a combination. You need at least 2 people to act as your executors 
  • Appoint a testamentary guardian for your children. This is important if you have children under the age of 18 
  • Make gifts of specific assets to people, such as items of jewellery or sentimental family heirlooms 
  • Ensure that your estate is distributed tax efficiently so the estate pays less in inheritance tax. This should mean there is more money left for your beneficiaries 
  • Leave money to a charity of your choice 
  • Say what your preferences are about funeral arrangements 
  • Place money in a trust. This can be helpful where, for example, you have been married previously and have children from different relationships. You may want your current spouse to be able to stay at the family home and have enough to live very comfortably but you may want your estate left in trust so that on your spouse’s death your remaining estate passes to your other trust beneficiaries, such as your children. If money is left outright to your spouse in your Will or under intestacy rules, then on the death of your spouse your monies will form part of their estate and be distributed in accordance with their Will or under intestacy rules. If your spouse remarries then the monies inherited from you may pass to their new husband or wife rather than to your children or grandchildren or to your preferred charity 

There are many other reasons why talking to a Will solicitor is a good idea. For example: 

  • To understand what assets form part of your estate. If the family home is owned as joint tenants, it passes straight to the surviving owner and not by your Will. If the house is owned as tenants in common your share of the property passes by your Will or under the intestacy rules. Other assets, such as a pension or life insurance, may not pass by your Will but by nominations. It all depends on how the policy is written 
  • It may be tax efficient to make lifetime gifts as part of your estate planning and IHT strategy 
  • You may want to put in place a Lasting Power of Attorney for yourself and your spouse 
  • You may want to check if your former spouse has a potential claim against your estate and discuss what you can do to protect your current husband or wife or your children from such an estate claim  

For expert Will and estate planning advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form.