Where there’s a Will, there’s a way to have a family argument

The rise of blended families, where people have multiple marriages and children with different partners, means that the inheritance arena has changed considerably.  From the traditional family setup to now including stepparents, stepchildren, divorced parents, and siblings with large age gaps, writing your Will just got a whole lot trickier.

Many people assume that their Will, including their children, can be carried over and do not realise that remarriage cancels any existing Will that is in place.  This means the more complicated the family setup, the more consideration to new Wills is essential.  In fact, if no new Will is created then intestacy laws will apply, meaning your surviving spouse will receive the first £270,000 of the estate and the remainder divided equally between your new spouse and your children in equal shares.

It is therefore essential that you make a new Will after the marriage, to deal with the situation at this stage rather than for a family row to erupt between children, stepparents, and stepchildren following death.

While there are some protections in place, through the 1975 Inheritance Act, allowing spouses, former spouses who have not remarried, cohabitees, children, and stepchildren to claim, it prioritises the spouse, who just needs to argue the will does not give them a reasonable amount. This can mean your wishes are unlikely to be undertaken.

Most commonly we come across arrangements written as “mirror wills” — with the money due to be given equally to the children after each other, these can be rewritten or become invalid should a remarriage occur in later life.  Whilst we want to ensure that the spouse is provided for in the first instance, we can also protect the children via doing so using a “life interest trust” within your will.  Through this, you can make sure someone is entitled to an income or to live in a property from your estate for the rest of their life, but the assets do not actually pass to that person.  The best of both worlds.

To avoid disputes, it is always key to talk about your will before you die. Lawyers say most disputes stem from people being shocked when the will is revealed, and because they only have six months to contest it, claims are often knee-jerk.  Additionally, Mark Lindley from the law firm Boodle Hatfield said: “The best thing you can do is take advice. Don’t rely on DIY wills, make your wishes known — and accept that some people may be unhappy with the outcome.”

We at Foresight agree, and if you would like a confidential Will review, then please get in touch.