Posted on 21.1.16 by Michael Smoult
A will is an incredibly important document to anyone who owns a home, has children, is in a serious relationship or has assets of any kind. The document allows to you set out specifically which people you intend to leave your estate to, which precise items you’d like to be inherited by who and how much you’d like to leave for each person. In short, you have complete control of the inheritance of your most prized possessions and finances. Without a Will, the job is left to the Rules of Intestacy, which may or may not divide your assets the way you want.
Same-sex couples often have unique concerns when making an estate plan. The laws regarding same-sex couples have changed significantly over the past decade. In 2004, gay couples were given the right to register as civil partners and as of 13th March 2014 were able to legally marry. Making a will does not have to be a complicated and drawn-out process if you use a professional who is trained and regulated.
There are so many reasons why same-sex couples should a will; below are out top 5 tips.
- Not Married or not Civil Partners
If you are not married or not in a civil partnership, you cannot automatically inherit from each other. If you are in a committed relationship it is vital to prepare a will so that your partner can benefit from your estate; dying without a will means your partner will not receive anything. The estate will be guided by the intestacy rules which will mean the deceased’s family inherit the estate. This could have wide-ranging issues, particularly if you do not own assets, such as property, jointly. You may have very specific thoughts on your estate which you have said to people, but unless it is written down those conversations are worthless.
- Children and Guardianship
Do you have children from a previous relationship? From your current one? Maybe you have adopted together? Either way, it is vital to think about appointing legal guardians to look after them. Children are the biggest trigger leading people to draw up a will. You can also state in your document how your children will be provided for financially, and build trusts into your will to make sure your children get looked after on a long-term scale in a sensible manner.
- Inheritance Tax & Finances
Dependent upon the value in your estate, in certain situation a will can help your loved ones save money by reducing the amount of inheritance tax to be paid. Each individual has a tax free allowance of £325,000. Anything over this amount and a tax rate of 40% applies. You may want to lighten the tax load by making lifetime gifts or building things, such as life insurance, into a trust. If a life insurance policy isn’t written into a trust, it may fall within your estate and therefore inheritance tax may be payable.
Same-sex couples can also encounter problems when it comes to pension rights. The Court of Appeal ruled last year that a civil partner’s spouse would not be entitled to the same pension benefits as a heterosexual couple upon his death. The Court said a partner of 19 years would only be entitled to a minimal payment of £500 a year from an £85,000 a year pension, instead of approximately £41,000 a year if it was a heterosexual marriage. You may want to speak to a solicitor to discuss similar scenarios.
- Executors & Trustees
Chose who you want to administer your estate carefully; it will be this or these designated executor/s who will abide by your will and make sure your wishes are carried out. It may be that if you do not prepare a will, a family member takes this role on and does not carry out your wishes sufficiently. Furthermore, if you have children and money is set aside for them when they are older, you will be able to choose who looks after that money as a Trustee who will then hand over to your children when they are old enough.
- Simplicity & Wishes
When someone close passes away it is an incredibly difficult time for those left behind. The clarity of what the deceased party wants to happen to their estate set out in the will help to significant reduce the stress of loved ones and also help to make the whole estate division much less time consuming and problematic.
There are many things to consider in a will which an expert in the field will go through with you. Always look for a STEP qualified solicitor, so that you know they are fully qualified in this area of law and fully insured. Remember a will is preparation for the future so that everything is ready if the unthinkable does happen.