In the UK, a will is a legally binding document setting out a person’s testamentary wishes and how they would like their estate to be left when they pass away. If a person dies without a will, then their estate is left according to a set of rules known as the Intestacy Rules.
When making a will, a person is free to leave their assets in any way they wish to, therefore a person may choose to leave a family member out of their will. Some assets, however, will pass independently to the assets passing under the terms of the will.
How are life assurance and pension policies allocated in an estate?
More often than not, life assurance policies and pension policies will fall outside of a person’s estate and do not pass under their will. Typically, the policy trustees will be responsible for distributing the policy proceeds and will take into account the most recent nomination form or letter of wishes completed by the deceased. If you are concerned that you have been left out of a pension nomination form, or think that you should be considered as a beneficiary, our team is well placed to assist you with this query.
How does cohabitation impact inheritance of a property?
Jointly owned property also does not pass according to a person’s will. Jointly owned property, such as a house or bank account, will pass automatically to the surviving joint owner. Therefore if a person dies owning a house with a partner as “beneficial” joint owners, the house will immediately pass to their partner. A person can sever a joint tenancy in various ways. Once a joint tenancy is severed, this means that the property is owned in shares between the owners (known as “beneficial” tenants in common). If a person owns a property as a tenant in common with one or more other owners, they can leave their share of the property in their will. In such circumstances, the property will not automatically be left to the surviving owner(s).
In what circumstances can you contest a will?
In the UK, an English or Welsh will can be challenged on grounds of validity. There are a number of claims which can be made regarding the validity of the will including (but not limited to):
• Improper execution of a will;
• Lack of testamentary capacity; and
• Undue influence by a third party.
If you believe that a will has been made invalidly, or could be invalid, Thomson Snell & Passmore is well placed to advise you on your options and potential claims. We can also advise you on, and assist you with, the lodging of a caveat against the estate, stopping the executors from applying for probate, giving you time to further investigate the circumstances in which the will has been made and why you might have been left out.
What can you do if you believe you have been unfairly left out of a will?
If the will you have been left out of was made validly, you can consider a claim against the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. You may be able to claim for such provision as it would be reasonable to receive for your maintenance or, in some circumstances, for an amount which it would be reasonable for you to receive regardless as to whether or not this would be for your maintenance. The value of your claim will depend upon your relationship to the deceased person whose will you have been left out of.
If you have been unfairly left out of will in England or Wales, we can assist you with outlining your options, with general enquiries regarding the will, the deceased’s state of mind or the estate, and with advice on whether you have a challenge to the will (based on validity or the Inheritance Act 1975). You can contact our specialist team firstname.lastname@example.org.