November is Will Aid Month and Royal London tested the public’s knowledge of Wills - this revealed five misconceptions.
1. – My children will be cared for by my immediate family if I die.
Two in five (39%) people incorrectly believe that the legal responsibility for children will automatically go to the immediate family if their parent(s) were to die without a Will. Without a Will in place the legal responsibility for any dependent children under 18 would fall to the courts, until a decision is made on who will become guardians.
2. – If I separate from my spouse my assets won’t go to them.
A third (31%) of people didn’t know what would happen to their assets if they separated from their spouse. A Will is technically valid even if you separate from your spouse. Until you divorce, your spouse could still be entitled to your assets.
3. – I’m cohabiting with my partner, so they’ll inherit my assets when I die.
If you are cohabiting with a partner and not married, they would not be entitled to assets only owned by you if you were to die without a Will. If there are jointly owned assets, the other owner would normally inherit them.
Children would 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 (dying without a Will in place).
Royal London asked the public who would inherit the assets of someone who is cohabiting with their partner but has children from a previous marriage. Three in four (74%) either gave an incorrect answer or did not know.
4. – My Will is valid across the UK.
The research also found that around nine in ten (87%) 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. – If I’m estranged from my family, they won’t inherit my assets.
In Scotland, you cannot legally remove your spouse or children as beneficiaries even if you have a Will which doesn’t include them. Even if you are estranged from your family, they can still claim on your assets. Research reveals that two thirds (65%) of UK adults do not know this is the case in Scots law, and only one in five (21%) of those living in Scotland are aware that this rule applies in Scotland, compared to 8% of all UK adults.
Mona Patel, consumer spokesperson at Royal London, said:
“Not having a Will in place can lead to all sorts of complications, many of which the general public are not aware of. But even with a Will in place, there are misconceptions around what happens to your assets when you die. It’s important to not only write a Will, but also to make sure it reflects your wishes and to keep it up to date if your circumstances change.”