Do you need a will?

Every so often I sit around the table with family and/or friends and we talk about important topics no body wants to talk about. A couple months ago we were talking about the passing of Chadwick Boseman and the fact that he died without leaving a will. This got everybody around the dinner table (and media) talking!

Following on from that conversation, I decided to write a blog to address some of the misconceptions the public have regarding assets in an estate when an individual passes without leaving a will.

First, let me engage you with a typical scenario and see if you can relate to anything here…

Imagine a 30 year old male called Tom. Tom works very hard to support himself, his loving girlfriend and their two young children. Everyday Tom goes to work, gets paid and starts to save some extra cash for retirement. Over the period of ten years, Tom saves up £40,000. One day Tom starts to experience intense pains in his stomach and he is told he has a rare condition which places his life at risk. Tom passes away shortly after and his family are devastated.

Tom’s family start the grieving process but decide it is best to start the preparations for the funeral, a couple days after his death. Tom’s girlfriend finds a document in the kitchen cabinet which specifies how much he had left in one of his bank accounts. She tries to find the will he was talking about leaving before he passed away but unfortunately, he did not get round to it. Tom passed away and he left no will.

Tom’s girlfriend calls the bank to have some of his money transferred to one of her bank accounts for the everyday costs of running their the household. The bank ask Tom’s girlfriend if he had a will and she states to her knowledge, no. The bank express that without a letter of administration, she simply cannot withdraw the funds from Tom’s account. The bank go on to say that his parents and siblings have already been in contact about the left over cash in his account. Tom’s girlfriend starts to research the costs for a solicitor who can help her with probate and she finds that legal advice alone starts from £100 per hour.

Now, from the scenario given above, can you guess who gets the assets left in Tom’s estate? The hard truth is that with no will in place, the law decides who gets Tom’s assets.

According to Royal London (2019) three in five adults in the UK do not have a will. I want to share with you, some common misconceptions which hold people back from forming a will before they pass away:

  1. My immediate family will have my children if I pass away

Well no. Sadly, without a will, the legal responsibility of children under 18 is determined by the courts and that may not be who was preferred by the person who passed away. 

  1. If I break up with my husband/wife, my assets can’t go to them

Unfortunately, if you are married but separated, your spouse could still be entitled to your assets if you were to pass away.

  1.  I’m living with my girlfriend/boyfriend, they’ll get my assets if I pass.

Nope! They will not be ‘entitled’ to anything solely owned by the deceased without a will. If the deceased person has no children with their girlfriend or boyfriend, their parents and siblings are next in line. Yep, this can be very awkward. 

To conclude, everyone over the age of 18 should look into writing a will and you can do this for cheap online with companies such as Beyond. You can get £30 off with the link here. Your family and loved ones will thank you for it and if the worst case scenario were to happen you know the people that matter to you most have a legally binding document which specifies what your wishes were if you were no longer with them anymore. 

Written by Shadie Banton-John
Financial Coach