The Long Goodbye
So things have not worked out quite as planned and you have made the difficult decision to split from your partner, your head may be spinning trying to establish a new home and a new routine for you, and also your children if you have them. The last thing on your mind may be your Will, but it is something that you should make time to consider.
If you were not married to or in a civil partnership with your partner then things may be slightly simpler for you in relation to your Will as a simple update can remove them or change their entitlement as you wish, however it is important not to make a snap decision and to ensure that you have considered your ongoing responsibilities towards them.
If you have children with your ex-partner, whether you were married, in a civil partnership or neither, then they will have continued parental responsibility for your children after your death. Have you left sufficient provision for them to be able to continue to care for the children as you would hope? If you currently make payments to your ex-partner towards your children’s care then it would be sensible to make provision for this to continue after your death. If you do not, your previous partner may bring a claim on your estate for an equivalent sum.
If you have ongoing shared outgoings, even where there are no children involved then your ex-partner may be able to bring a claim on your estate as someone who was financially dependent on you at the time of your death, and so again thought should be given as to how to meet those ongoing payments for what is deemed to be a reasonable period, for example, if you made payments towards their housing costs whilst they look for an alternative, cheaper housing option, you should consider covering those costs for a sufficient period to allow them to do so.
If you were married to or in a civil partnership with your ex-partner, and choose not to have the relationship legally dissolved then even if you update your Will to exclude your ex-partner from any entitlement, they can bring a claim on your estate as your spouse and will be entitled to ‘reasonable’ provision from your estate on your death, even if you have been separated for some time.
If you were married or in a civil partnership then the best way to provided certainty as to what will happen to your estate is to have the partnership legally dissolved, in the case of marriage by divorce, and to obtain a Court Order settling the finances. In the cases of a clean break dissolution then you should request a provision that no party is entitled to make any further claim on the others estate on death and you are then free to deal with your estate as you wish. If a clean break is not achieved, then at the least, the order should set out your ongoing obligations so that you can make appropriate provision for those to continue after your death.
If your relationship is legally dissolved, even without a financial settlement, then any appointments of or gifts to your ex-partner will no longer be of effect, and so you should certainly update your Will as a matter of urgency at this stage.
A claim on your estate will almost certainly disadvantage your intended beneficiaries due to the likely costs involved and a well-considered plan including your Will and appropriate financial planning can help to avoid this situation.
Talk to Tollers to ensure that the risk of claims on your estate is minimised and that you have greater certainty as to what will happen on your death. Kirstie Brownbill is a Solicitor with Tollers who specialises in Wills, Tax and Estate Planning, Trusts and Estates administration, Lasting Power of Attorney. You can contact Kirstie on 01536 276734.