Will my spouse automatically inherit everything when I die?

Whilst a difficult and intimidating subject to consider, what will happen to our estate and belongings when we pass away are important decisions to make. Many people assume whether it’s the fault of false media presentation or evolving practices that have yet to become modern common knowledge, that a person’s husband or wife will automatically receive everything after their partner’s death.

Do I need a will to pass my assets to my spouse?

Simply put, if you have a legally binding will when you pass away then the dictates of that document will determine what happens to your assets- so if you have listed your spouse as sole beneficiary, they will receive everything, or exactly how much you have given to them in the will. Anything that is jointly owned by you and your spouse will pass to the surviving partner automatically, but you can allocate any solely owned property to whomever you choose. However, if your spouse is financially dependant on you and you do not provide for them sufficiently in your will then they would have grounds to contest the will.

However, if you do not have a will then there is a set hierarchy in who will inherit your assets. The first in this process would be your spouse. If your estate is worth up to £250,000 then your husband or wife would inherit the full amount, but if your estate is worth more than this then your spouse would inherit the first £250,000 and then half of whatever is left, the other half will then be given to your children if you have any. If you do not have a spouse, then the process would then continue until the closest living relative is identified and they would inherit- regardless of your relationship with this person.

What if my partner and I are not married?

This only applies if yourself and your partner are in a legal marriage or civil partnership. Regardless of whether you are engaged or how long your relationship may have been, they would not be considered your spouse legally and therefore would only inherit if you named them in a will. It’s also important to note that if you have an existing will and get married, then the previous will is over-written, and your new spouse would inherit everything automatically. Divorce, however, does not totally overwrite a will but will mean that your ex-spouse will not be able to inherit unless expressly named.

What happens if I have a joint will?

If you and your spouse have a joint will, then this means everything will remain with the surviving spouse until they pass away, at which point the joint estate will then be passed on to the beneficiaries. The surviving spouse would not, however, be able to make any changes to this will, for example, to include a new family member or to exclude anyone.

So, simply put, if you have a standing will then you are able to allocate your assets and estate to whomever you wish- and this can only be contested if there is any doubt over your mental capacity at the time of writing your will, or if you have not adequately provided for someone who is financially dependant on you. However, if you pass away intestate (without a will) or with a joint will then your estate will automatically pass to your spouse if you have one. To give you peace of mind that your assets are being passed to the people you want them to be, then it’s always best to consult with a lawyer to draw up a standing will that conveys your wishes clearly. We here at Gardner Croft are passionate about family and we want to give our clients the peace of mind they need to relax knowing their family and friends will be provided for.