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Legal News | 30.04.20

Private Client Update

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More on Wills… and why you need one if you have a ‘blended’ family

Last week we commented on the importance of Wills for unmarried couples. It is a misconception that the law recognises an unmarried partner as a ‘common law’ husband or wife. If you die without a valid Will in place, leaving a partner you did not marry (or enter into a civil partnership with), that partner cannot expect to receive anything from your estate, as a matter of law.

Blended families

You may therefore think that if you are married, or have entered into a civil partnership, the law will be better suited to carry out your wishes if you die without a Will. Whilst true for some, those that have married or entered into a civil partnership and have children from a previous relationship may likewise find that the law is not on their side.

Common wishes for this sort of ‘blended’ family include:

  • the couples’ combined estates divided between all of the children of the family on the second death;
  • the estate of each spouse passing to their own biological children on the second death; or
  • joint property passing to the surviving spouse or civil partner, whilst property owned in the deceased’s sole name passes to the children.

The surviving spouse inheriting everything (or a vast majority of it), with no obligation to the deceased’s biological children, is not a common wish. Unfortunately for many, this is the default position when a spouse or civil partner dies without a Will.

The intestacy rules

This default position is set out in the intestacy rules, which direct what should happen to the deceased’s assets if they did not leave a Will. In brief, the rules in this situation dictate that the surviving spouse or civil partner will receive:

  • all personal possessions (which may be a problem if you would like family heirlooms to pass down the bloodline);
  • the first £270,000 of the estate (for some this is the entire estate); and
  • half of anything that remains.

Children are to share equally in the remaining half of ‘anything that remains’. There are no rules to say that anything further should pass to the children at all, whether immediately or on the death of the surviving spouse or civil partner.

Your individual circumstances

With all that is going on in the world at the moment, many are addressing their post-death arrangements. Whether you are part of an unmarried couple, a blended family or otherwise, all individuals have different circumstances and wishes, and you may well need a Will to ensure that those wishes are carried out.


Posted By Our Wills, Tax, Trusts & Probate Team