Will

Read the latest articles on Family Law from our expert Family Law solicitors here at Evolve Family Law in Manchester & Cheshire.

We put a lot of family law legal information on our website and if you have a single question about your situation, you should find an answer in this blog.

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Wills for Unmarried Partners

Wills for Unmarried Partners

If you are in an unmarried relationship or cohabiting with a partner you do need to sort some paperwork out. Whilst you and your partner may both be content to not have a marriage certificate or civil partnership certificate there are some practical things that you should do to protect your partner and family. In this article, our Will solicitors look at why it is vital to get a Will sorted out for yourself if you are entering a new cohabiting relationship or if you and your unmarried partner have settled down together without the convention of marriage or civil partnership. For expert Will advice call us or complete our online form. Why you need a Will if you are in an unmarried relationship If you are young and unmarried, why do you need a Will? If you are middle-aged, in good health, and buoyed up by your new relationship, why do you need a Will? The answer - if you are living with a partner or are in a personal relationship then your loved one has no inheritance rights or voice if you pass away. The position is different if they were your wife, husband or civil partner. Whilst a spouse or civil partner is legally your next of kin, an unmarried partner has no legal standing if you do not make a Will. That is the case if you have been living together with your partner for 3 months or 30 years. If you are unmarried and you do not have a Will, your next of kin may be your children, parents, or a sibling. Your relatives may not get on with your partner. The difficult relationship dynamics and money issues could result in your partner and your family arguing in court about who should inherit your property and assets. Unless your family who will inherit your estate under intestacy rules can reach an agreement with your cohabiting partner, a judge may have to decide if the intestacy rules (that give nothing to your unmarried partner) should be changed to leave them with reasonable financial provision in light of their circumstances. [related_posts] Why you need your partner to make a Will Looking at the situation from the other angle, it is just as important that your partner makes a Will to protect you. For example, if you have been living with them for ten years in their home. If they pass away before you and they have not made a Will then you will not be entitled to stay in the house. You also will not be entitled to a share in the equity in the property if it is sold unless you can either: Prove that you have a beneficial interest in the property because you invested money in it and are entitled to an equitable interest under property or trust law or Claim a share of the estate of your partner by challenging the estate distribution under the intestacy rules Either option involves the potential for family disputes and court proceedings. Sometimes unmarried partners do not want to leave their house or estate to their partner. That may be understandable if they have children from a previous relationship, if you and they have not been together long or if you are comfortably off and do not need a share of their estate. However, a Will could give you a right to live in the property for life if your partner has children or the Will could give you the right to stay at the property for at least 12 months after your partner’s death so you have a bit of space and time to grieve. What should go in your Will and in the Will of your unmarried partner depends on a whole range of issues, including the size of the two estates and your financial positions as well as your respective personal preferences. Alternatively, you or your partner may want to make financial provision for one another by taking out life insurance but you will then need to consider if the life insurance will pass under your Will or a nomination form. Many couples can feel overwhelmed by Will choices but that is no reason not to make a Will. Our Will solicitors can help you wade through the choices and the decisions you need to make when writing a Will to ensure that you are left with a Will that reflects your wishes and family circumstances. For expert Will and private client advice call us or complete our online form.
Chris Strogen
May 21, 2024   ·   4 minute read
Do You Need a Will if You Are Married?

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.  [related_posts] 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.
Chris Strogen
Jan 10, 2024   ·   6 minute read
What Does Intestacy Mean

What Does Intestacy Mean

Intestacy or dying intestate means a person has passed away without a valid Will. The person’s estate is therefore distributed under the intestacy rules.  In this article, Will and probate solicitor, Chris Strogen, looks at what intestacy might mean for you or your family.  If you need help with making a Will or with probate and estate administration call our team or complete our online enquiry form.   Passing away without a Will   If you die without a Will your family will not have the guidance you could have given in a Will. A Will does not just say who should inherit your estate. A Will can also:  1. Appoint executors to administer your estate In a Will, you can choose the best person for the job of executor. That might be your husband or wife, a friend, an adult child, your Will solicitor or a combination of these people. You may know that asking your spouse and your children to work together as executors will not work in your family circumstances and in your Will you can appoint your executors with care  2.Set out when your chosen beneficiaries will inherit You may not want your children to come into their inheritance until they are 21, 25 or 30 so they are a bit more mature when they receive a life changing amount of money  3.Protect your minor children by appointing a testamentary guardian in your Will   4.Ringfence assets in a trust so your trustees can distribute the income or capital in your estate to the discretionary trust beneficiaries after considering their circumstances and making distributions in a tax-efficient manner. A trust can be very helpful in a blended family or where there are concerns that if a gift is left outright to a family member it will be wasted or end up being used to fund the beneficiary’s divorce settlement   5.Make small bequests so friends or grandchildren are not forgotten as they are left an item of sentimental value or a gift of money  A Will is a very powerful document as it sets out the testator’s wishes. All of us should have a Will to protect our loved ones. That is particularly important if your estate would not pass following your preferences under the intestacy rules. For example, a much-loved unmarried partner of 20 years inherits nothing under the intestacy rules. For example, depending on the size of your estate, a spouse you married 6 months before your death may inherit everything leaving nothing to your 4 children from your first marriage.  The rules of intestacy explained  If there is no Will your estate passes under the rules of intestacy. There is no discretion – the rules apply whether or not they are what you would have wanted to happen to your estate.  As the intestacy rules are rigid, they can create family upset. For example, if your cohabitee will not receive anything or if the family heirloom you verbally promised to your grandson is inherited by your new spouse.  The intestacy rules say:   If the person who died was married or in a civil partnership and had no children, all their estate goes to their husband, wife or civil partner  If the person who died was married or in a civil relationship and has children, the first £322,000 of their estate goes to their spouse or civil partner, together with all the deceased’s personal possessions. If the estate is worth more than  £322,000 then the spouse or civil partner gets half the balance and the deceased’s children split the remaining half between them  If the person who died was not married or in a civil partnership, but has children, the estate goes to the children. If there are no biological or adopted children, the estate goes to the parents and the intestacy rules continue with a list of more distant relatives in order of preference. [related_posts] If the intestacy rules create unfairness  If the intestacy rules create unfairness, then there is the potential to sort things out by the beneficiaries under the intestacy rules agreeing to forgo their inheritance or share their inheritance. That does not always happen as an unmarried partner of 20 years may not get on with the deceased’s adult child from a previous relationship or with the deceased’s parents so the family is unable to negotiate a compromise on how to share the estate.    If the family cannot sort out the difficulties created by the lack of Will and the intestacy rules then a disappointed unmarried partner or other relative could make a court application to claim a share of the estate because the intestacy rules did not make reasonable financial provision for them. The court must look at each case on its facts. For example, if the unmarried partner is a successful business owner with a good income and a property owner, the court may decide that they do not need a share of the estate. The ruling might be different if the unmarried partner was living on a state pension and the deceased’s adult children were all homeowners and doing well for themselves.  The problem with challenging the intestacy rules is that it can create ill will within a family and it costs both time and money. It is a lot simpler and cheaper to make a Will.    Avoiding intestacy  Avoiding intestacy is easy. All you must do is make sure that you and your loved ones have a Will. It is also important to review your Will and make sure it is up to date. If your Will is not up to date you may end up with a partial intestacy. For example, if you leave half your estate to your brother but your brother passes away before you do so. A partial intestacy can be avoided by updating your Will to name a new beneficiary. In any new Will, it is a good idea to include a ‘what if’ clause. For example, you leave half your estate to your nephew but if he passes away before you then the legacy is shared between his children.  Our solicitors can help you with all your Will and estate administration needs, including if you are unsure about what to do if a relative has passed away without leaving a Will.    If you need help with making a Will or with probate and estate administration call our team or complete our online enquiry form.  
Chris Strogen
Jan 03, 2024   ·   6 minute read
What is Inheritance Tax

What is Inheritance Tax

Nowadays inheritance tax is a bit of a political hot potato with some politicians calling for the ‘death tax’ to be scrapped. Many people are not sure about how inheritance tax works and if inheritance tax would affect their family. Some people stress about the tax and others take the attitude that as it is a death tax it isn’t something that is a big priority.  Our Will solicitors spend their days talking about IHT. They explain what it is, how much your estate could end up paying in tax, and the steps you can take to reduce the IHT payable by your estate. Will solicitors say it is in the best interests of your family and loved ones that you carry out some estate planning. By taking what are often simple steps you will leave more of your estate to your chosen beneficiaries rather than to the tax man. To most people that is a ‘no-brainer.’  For expert Will and estate planning advice complete our online enquiry form.   Who pays inheritance tax?   Inheritance tax (IHT) is payable on a deceased’s estate if the estate is not inheritance tax exempt. Whilst IHT is not a tax that you need to pay during your lifetime there are steps you can take to reduce the IHT liability on your estate. Will solicitors refer to this as estate planning or IHT mitigation.  If you do not engage in estate planning your estate may have to pay a tax bill of 40% of the net value of your estate after considering 2 thresholds:  The IHT threshold of £325,000  - all estates only pay IHT if the estate is valued at more than £325,000. The first £325,000 of an estate is referred to as the nil rate band or NRB  The residence nil rate band of £175,000 – your estate may qualify for an additional £175,000 in nil rate band if you own a property and you are passing it on to your child or grandchildren. If the residence NRB applies to your estate then your net estate will only pay IHT on anything over the first £500,000 ( the £325,000 is added onto the £175,000)  The rate of IHT can be reduced to 36% if you leave at least 10% of your estate to charity.  Calculating the value of your estate  Will solicitors say that you should not assume that your estate will not need to pay IHT if your estate is currently worth less than £325,000 or £500,000. That is because the value of your assets may go up at a faster rate than the government IHT thresholds or the thresholds could even be scrapped.   There can also be confusion about what assets are included in your estate to calculate your estate’s IHT liability. For example:  An insurance policy payment may fall outside your estate because of the wording of the policy  A gift given to a family member may have a percentage of its value added back into your estate if you died within 7 years of making the gift  When a probate solicitor is dealing with an estate administration, they will advise you on IHT liabilities and when any inheritance tax is payable.  Exempt estates  Some estates are exempt from paying IHT. This can be down to one of several factors:  The estate is valued at less than £325,000 (or £500,000 if the estate qualifies for the residence nil rate band of £175,000 on top of the standard IHT threshold of £325,000). The value of the estate could be less than £325,000 because the deceased made lifetime gifts to friends and family and survived for 7 years after making the gift  The estate is left to charity   The estate is left to a husband, wife, or civil partner. This is referred to as the spouse exemption. When the second spouse passes away their estate can use the first spouse’s nil rate band of £325,000 as well as their own so their estate only pays IHT on the value of the estate over £650,000 . [related_posts] Reducing your inheritance tax bill  There are several ways that you can legitimately reduce the potential inheritance tax bill that your estate may end up paying.   One of the more radical IHT suggestions is to get married if you are living with a partner in an unmarried relationship. If you leave your estate in your Will to your new husband or wife then the spouse exemption will apply so no inheritance tax is payable. For an estate worth 1 million, with a nil rate band of £325,000, that is a potential tax saving of £270,000. Before you marry you could decide to sign a prenuptial agreement to safeguard your family money in case of separation or divorce during your lifetime.    Other less radical options include leaving a percentage of your estate to charity to reduce the tax rate from 40% to 36% or using your annual allowance to make gifts to family members.  There are other ways you can reduce your inheritance tax bill. A Will solicitor can explore them with you and work out which ones are suitable for your financial and family circumstances. At the same time, they can review your existing Will to make sure it remains fit for purpose and is tax efficient. If you don’t have a Will then one can be prepared for you.   For expert Will and estate planning advice complete our online enquiry form. 
Chris Strogen
Dec 18, 2023   ·   5 minute read
Can a Separated Spouse Inherit?

Can a Separated Spouse Inherit?

Our private client and Will solicitors are asked the question ‘Can a separated spouse inherit?’ The quick answer is yes or maybe. That’s why if you are thinking about a separation or divorce you need to talk to a Will and estate planning solicitor as well as to a family lawyer.  In this article, our Will solicitors explain why you need a Will or a new Will if you are going through a family separation. Our specialist lawyers can help you with all your private client needs, including writing a Will for you or checking if your existing Will needs amending, because of your new family circumstances.  For expert Will and estate planning advice call our team or complete our online enquiry form.   Who inherits if you are separated   If you are separated from your husband, wife, or civil partner then you are still in a legal relationship with them until the relationship is dissolved by your securing a final order of divorce or the dissolution of your civil partnership.  A gift in a Will to a separated spouse or civil partner is valid despite your separation.  If you have not made a Will your separated husband, wife, or civil partner is one of your next of kin and they will be entitled to a share of your estate under the intestacy rules.  The intestacy rules set out who inherits your estate where there is no Will. The rules say:  If there are surviving children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren and the estate has a value over £322,000, the spouse or civil partner will inherit:  All the personal property and belongings of the deceased and   The first £322,000 of the estate and   Half of the remaining estate  2.If there are no surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, the spouse or civil partner will inherit:  All the personal property and belongings of the deceased and   The rest of the estate   Whether there is a Will or if the intestacy rules decide who gets an estate, some people can challenge the provisions in a Will or the intestacy rules distribution. They can do this if they do not think that the Will or the intestacy rules make reasonable financial provision for them by making a claim against the estate.  [related_posts] Joint property and separated spouses  Many married couples jointly own their family home. If a house is owned as joint tenants the surviving partner automatically inherits the deceased’s share of the house. That is the case even if the deceased was separated from their husband or wife or even if the deceased made a Will leaving their estate to their children or charity.  If you do not want your husband or wife to inherit under the joint tenancy survivorship rule then your family law solicitor can check to see if you own your family home as joint tenants. If you do own the property as joint tenants then you can sever the joint tenancy. That means the property continues to be jointly owned but you own it with your spouse as tenants in common. If you predecease your spouse your share of the property will pass under the terms of your Will. It is important to check the terms of any existing Will and to change it if necessary. That’s because most married couples have Wills that leave most of their estate to their spouse so severing the joint tenancy will only work if you also change your Will.    If you do not have a Will then intestacy rules will apply to your estate so it is important to get a Will solicitor to prepare a Will for you if you do decide to sever the joint tenancy.  One point to note is that if your separated spouse predeceases you after you sever the joint tenancy then you will not automatically inherit their share of the property under the survivorship rules. Instead, your estranged spouse’s share of the property will pass under their Will or intestacy rules.  Making a Will if you are separated  If you are separated from your husband, wife, or civil partner it is best to change your Will straight away rather than wait until after your divorce comes through. That’s the case even if your separation is amicable. For example, you may want to change your Will to leave your estate in trust for your young children. If the separation is amicable, you could appoint your estranged wife as one of the trustees of your estate. If your estate is left to your wife directly and she remarries then her second husband could inherit her estate (including the money and assets she inherited from you) and your children could lose out.  A Will solicitor can help you write a Will that reflects your new family circumstances and reduces the risk of a person making a claim against your estate. For example, they may recommend that your Will includes a discretionary trust. There are lots of options and estate planning choices that a specialist Will solicitor can talk you through.   For expert Will and estate planning advice complete our online enquiry form.      
Robin Charrot
Dec 12, 2023   ·   5 minute read