Why up to 1.5 million couples could get a nasty shock if they don't have a valid will
In England and Wales, the law around wills dates back to Victorian times. To make a valid will, you need to jump through some very rigid hoops.
Your will must be in writing and signed in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign it. If you make a mistake – for example, if your witnesses are not both present to sign at the same time – then your will is not valid.
If you have no valid will, the laws of intestacy apply. These decide where your property goes. If you are married or in a civil partnership and die without a will, your property will either pass to your spouse or your spouse and children, depending on the value of your estate.
If you are not married but live with a partner, neither of you have rights under intestacy. So neither your partner, nor any children he or she has, are guaranteed anything in the event of your death - and vice versa.
Today in Britain, around one-and-a-half million couples live in defacto relationships. Most have no idea they would have no rights under intestacy. However, the Law Commission is now looking into the possibility of changing the law in England and Wales - and that’s where Juliet Brook comes in.
Juliet is Principal Lecturer at the School of Law at the University of Portsmouth. She said: ‘There is a far greater likelihood now of second families, former spouses, and cohabitation. And more and more people are getting their wills off the internet and doing them at home. They don’t understand how rigid the rules are. By the time you discover a will is invalid, it’s too late. The person who made it is dead.
‘I’ve met the Law Commissioner for Property, Family and Trust Law and his Wills team. They found the issues that my research highlights very interesting.’
Juliet hopes her input will influence the structure of any new law. To find out more about Juliet’s work, call 023 9284 4488 or email [email protected]
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