Couples often leave all of their assets to each other in their Wills. While this is commonplace and understandable, it can cause problems for their children, who could miss out entirely on their inheritance in certain circumstances.
If a couple leaves everything to each other in their Wills, then after the death of the first to die, the survivor will own all of the assets outright. If they subsequently marry, then their Will automatically becomes invalid. This means that even if their original Will leaves all of their estate to their children, once they are married, this no longer applies.
The children of the original couple could lose out in a number of ways. If no new Will is made, then their the surviving parent’s estate will pass under the Rules of Intestacy, which means that the new spouse could inherit everything or substantially more than the children.
If a new Will is made, then there is nothing to stop the surviving parent leaving everything to their new spouse. If this happens, the children will receive nothing and the whole estate moves sideways to a different family, potentially on to the new spouse’s children.
Even if the new spouse makes a Will leaving money to the children of the original couple, there is nothing to stop them changing their Will and cutting the children out at some future date.
How to avoid sideways disinheritance
One of the easiest ways to avoid sideways disinheritance is to bequeath your spouse or partner a life interest in the assets that you are leaving. This means that they can continue to live in a shared home for as long as they need to. However, when they finally leave or die, the share that belonged to the first person to die passes in accordance with the terms of their Will, meaning they can leave it to their children and be sure that they will receive it in the end, after it is no longer needed by the surviving spouse or partner.
Leaving a life interest in an asset also means that it cannot be taken into account when assessing the surviving spouse for benefits such as payment for care home fees and it will be protected from being used in this way.
It will also protect the money from being spent by the surviving spouse or being lost in bankruptcy or divorce.
At Quinn Legal, we can talk through your options with you to ensure that your Will makes provision for all of your family in the way that you would wish and so that none of your loved ones are left out. Our advocates have experience in drawing up Wills for individuals in all circumstances, including those with complex or high-value estates.
For more information about the benefits of having a Will, see our Wills page.