If your family circumstances are changing, so should your will

In a recent blog, we highlighted the importance of having those "awkward" conversations among blended families due to the fact that many people are left with many misunderstandings surrounding inheritance laws. So, if you’re planning to remarry, chances are you might need to check and even re-write your will.

Blended families are becoming more common

According to recent statistics from the Children’s Commissioner and Census data, almost a quarter (23%) of the 8.2 million families with children in the UK are headed by lone parents, and an additional 10% are blended families, where children and step-children live with parents and step-parents.

There are also a number of people marrying in later life as we live longer - but sadly, with the shift in family structures, will disputes are on the rise.

Not everything is as it seems

Many will-related disputes arise after remarriages, often due to misunderstandings about the law regarding inheritance. For instance, you might assume your assets, like your house, will automatically go to a family member upon your death. This isn't always the case, especially in blended families.

If you die without a will, known as dying "intestate," intestacy rules dictate how your estate is divided. A surviving spouse or civil partner inherits first, followed by any children or grandchildren, but not stepchildren. Additionally, if you start cohabiting with a new partner after a divorce without remarrying or entering a civil partnership, your new partner might not inherit any part of your estate. How the intestacy rules apply depend on your family circumstances, which can be very complicated.

It’s crucial to update your will to reflect your current living arrangements.

Remember, cohabiting partners do not have the same rights as married spouses, or civil partners, despite common misconceptions about common-law partnerships. If you remarry, or are civil partners, there is no time limit before a new spouse or civil partner  is entitled to inherit, potentially excluding children from a previous marriage/relationship.

Many of our clients are simply unaware of the legal implications of their situations or never discussed these matters with their parents or step-parents - but these conversations are important to make sure there are no disagreements later on. This is also crucial when you are considering who should act for you as attorney if you are not able to make decisions for yourself, for example if you get dementia. The dynamics involving blended families cause all sorts of issues and heartache for those you love.

You can avoid a lot of future headaches by ensuring all your legal paperwork is up to date.

For further help or advice regarding wills or Lasting Powers of Attorney, contact Downs Solicitors to see how we can assist you.

Liz Dalgetty

Liz Dalgetty

Consultant Solicitor & Notary Public

Tel: +44 (0) 1306 502251

Office: Dorking Office

Email: [email protected]