Regardless of whether you’re a first time buyer or seasoned property owner, buying a home is undoubtedly a big investment. You’ll soon be the proud owner of an asset which is likely to increase in value, so it makes sense for you to write a Will that reflects this at the time of purchase.
Writing a Will doesn’t need to be difficult or morbid; it’s actually a very sensible move. It’s one way to guarantee that your home – perhaps the most valuable thing you’ll ever own – is passed on as you intended following your death.
Why make a Will
Too many people fail to realise that the way in which you own your property determines how it is passed on when you die. If you own your property as Tenants-in-Common, a Will really is a must-have if you want to protect both you and your partner’s financial interests.
If you’re unmarried, it’s a common misconception that ownership of your home will automatically pass to a surviving partner once you’re gone. This isn’t always the case. Likewise, the concept of common law and legal protection for common law spouses is a myth. Cohabitating couples have very few (if any) rights to inherit from their deceased partner’s estate if they die without leaving a Will.
If you want to retain control over who inherits your property assets (as well as any other assets of financial and sentimental value), it’s important that you make your wishes clear in a professionally-drafted Will.
What if I own my home with someone else?
If you’re married or in a civil partnership, your home will automatically pass to your legal spouse in the event of your death.
However it’s now the norm to buy a home with someone else – a partner, a sibling or even a friend. When buying a home with another person, there are two types of joint ownership to choose from: Joint Tenants and Tenants-in-Common.
- Joint Tenants means that you own an equal share of the property jointly. If one of you were to die, their share of the property will automatically transfer to the surviving owner.
- Tenants-in-Common means that you both own a specified share of the property; however your shares are kept separate. Your partner doesn’t have an automatic right to inherit your share of the property and instead you’re free to gift it to whoever you choose in your Will. This can be the person you brought your property with – or someone else.
I’ve already got a Will
If you’ve already written a Will, that’s great news. Now is the ideal time for you to revisit your Will to ensure that it still meets your requirements, reflects your interests and protects your loved ones
What happens if I die without a Will?
When someone dies without a valid Will in place, this is known as dying intestate. Without a Will, the wishes of the deceased aren’t taken into consideration. Instead their property, money and possessions are distributed according to the intestacy rules set out by the state – meaning that there’s a very real risk that assets won’t be passed on as their owner would’ve intended.
Dying intestate can be particularly problematic for unmarried couples and those who own their property as Tenants-in-Common. Cohabitating partners who were neither married or in a civil partnership can’t inherit under intestacy rules. So when one member of a cohabitating couple dies and there is no Will, it can come as a very nasty surprise that the deceased’s estate doesn’t automatically pass to the other.
Under intestacy rules there is no provision for cohabitees; cohabiting couples are simply not afforded the same legal protection as those who are married or in a civil partnership. That’s why it’s so important that you protect your financial interests – and that of your partner’s – by writing a Will which clearly sets out your wishes for your property and other assets.
In reality, making or updating your Will is always easier than you think. To speak to a Will solicitor about making a Will, call our Bristol office on 0117 972 1261 or our Wills team in Shepton Mallet on 01749 345 756.