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morbidity is nothing to be scared of

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Yesterday a most unusual event occurred. In conversation with a couple of people that I know, it transpired that one of them had just made their will, the other one hadn’t. This is unusual because in my normal life, people don’t discuss their personal financial affairs with me.

I’m a little concerned about the guy who didn’t have a will. He’s living with his partner in a house that they own, who his family may or may not wholly approve of. Under English law, without a will, his parents will inherit his estate including his share of the house. This may put his partner in considerable difficulty and the same would be true if his partner died. In this case, he was aware of the law and agreed that he should get around to making a will. However, it is relatively common for people to be unaware of inheritance law and how it may affect them.

Firstly, in English law there is no such thing as a common-law partner. If you are living with someone who is not your spouse or civil partner, they have very few rights if you die without a will. In particular they will not inherit your estate. If you own a property as tenants in common, then the share of the property that belonged to the partner who died will pass to their blood relatives which could be uncles, aunts or cousins. If there are no blood relatives, the estate passes to the Crown (aka the government). If they are financially dependent they may be able to apply for support through the courts but this is not guaranteed.

Secondly, if you are married or in a civil partnership and you die without making a will, then your spouse or civil partner will not necessarily inherit your entire estate. How much they get will depend on whether the deceased had any children.

For more information on intestacy laws in England look here. Or, don’t worry about them and make your will. I will be making mine as soon as I manage to buy my house. I promise.

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