The law of intestacy (dying without a Will in place) can be complex and confusing, and what you think might happen may not always be the case.
For Will Aid Month this year, we bust the myths of intestacy after testing the public’s knowledge to see what they knew.
1. Responsibility for children under 18
One of the biggest misconceptions is that legal responsibility for children automatically goes to immediate family if their parent(s) were to die without a Will. Two in five (39%) people thought this was the case.
In reality,, without a Will in place, legal responsibility for any dependent children under 18 would actually fall to the courts, until a decision is made on who will become guardians.
2. Cohabiting couples
Cohabiting is becoming more and more popular . If you are cohabiting and not married, your partner would not be entitled to any assets only owned by you if you were to die without a Will. If there are jointly owned assets, the joint owner would normally inherit them.
Children would also have a claim on the assets but if there are no children, the assets would be passed on to parents and siblings. A cohabitee has no rights under the law of intestacy. We found that a staggering three in four weren’t aware of this.
Even if you do have a Will in place, there are still some complexities which not everyone is aware of.
3. Separated but not divorced
A third (31%) of people didn’t know what would happen to their assets if they separated from their spouse. If you have a Will in place and separate but do not divorce, your spouse could still be entitled to your assets.
4. Valid Will
Naturally, we might assume that a Will written in England is valid across the UK. Our research found that around nine in ten people are not aware that a Will written in England may not be valid in Scotland.
If you have written a Will in England and since moved to Scotland or vice versa, you should consider taking advice.
5. Estranged from family
Scotland also has some rules of its own when it comes to Wills. In Scotland, you cannot legally remove your spouse or children as beneficiaries even if you have a Will which doesn’t include them. So even if you are estranged from your family, they can still claim on your assets.
We found that only one in five of those living in Scotland are aware that this rule applies in Scotland.
Whilst there are some misconceptions about what can happen if you die with a Will in place, dying without one could be a lot more problematic for your loved ones.
We encourage you to take advantage of Will Aid Month this November to give you and your loved ones peace of mind.