Unmarried couples should update their wills to avoid leaving their partner “high and dry”, says the Law Society.
The independent professional body for solicitors issued the warning last week, explaining that an estranged spouse could benefit if a couple is not married or in a civil partnership and either partner dies without a will.
The partner left behind may lose out if they are not a beneficiary of the deceased’s estate and could receive nothing. Usually any assets would go to children, possibly to their estranged husband or wife, or even to the government if there are no close relatives.
Recently legal journal, Today’s Wills and Probate, reported on the case of a bereaved woman whose partner had not updated his will, resulting in his share to their house going to his estranged wife.
The woman took her case to court, and the judge ruled in her favour. However, the process had been traumatic and an up-to-date will would have reduced the stress and heartache she felt at her time of bereavement.
President of the Law Society, Jonathan Smithers, said: “This case is an important reminder to unmarried couples to make sure they have a valid and up-to-date will, and to seek expert advice regarding co-owned property, if they intend their current partner to inherit upon their death.
“Making a will is extremely important. Solicitors have the necessary qualifications and training to address the often complex issues associated with drafting a will and can help ensure that your estate is left to those who you wish to inherit after your death.”
The Law Society advises people to review their existing wills every five years to ensure they are up to date.