If you will live together, will not having a Will matter?

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If you die without leaving a Will you are said to have died 'intestate' – and at the moment the laws of intestacy are very strict as to what happens to your money and other assets if you haven’t made a Will stating who you want to inherit your estate.

It's estimated that more than half of the adults in the UK haven't made a will – and at the moment that's particularly bad news for unmarried partners if one dies intestate. Under current laws, cohabiting couples have no automatic right to inherit if their partner dies without making a will. It is blood relatives who take priority.

A bereaved partner may even need to go to court to prove that they had a 'financial dependency' on the person who has died without making a will.

But now the Law Commission wants to give cohabiting couples the same right to inherit as married couples if a partner dies intestate.

Couples who have lived together for more than five years or have children together should be treated as if they are married if one partner dies without making a will, according to the Commission.

Professor Elizabeth Cooke, the Law Commissioner leading the review, says: "We'd love everyone to make a will and the more people who do that the better. But some simply do not have a will and we need to have alternative arrangements in place."

But this new law may be a long time coming, so the message is: if you want to do what you will – make sure you make a Will

Dying is not something that most of us want to think about, but if you do want to think about the loved ones you’ll leave behind then you mustn't just think about making a will. You must go ahead and make a will that sets out who you want to benefit from the money and other assets you'll leave behind.

Wills are especially important for partners who aren't married, because if one partner dies without making a will the other doesn't have any automatic right to inherit.

Another thing to think about is today's increasingly 'fluid' family circumstances. Many more people are getting divorced, remarrying or living together, so you should change your will to reflect the changes in your lifestyle – eg you may want to ensure that children from a previous relationship still benefit from your will even if you are with a new partner.

You might also want to look into ways to reduce Inheritance Tax bills, another area The Law Commission is proposing to revise for spouses. At the moment a wife or husband gets the first £250,000 if their spouse dies intestate. The rest is shared with any children. The Commission is considering whether or not the spouse should inherit the entire estate.

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