The Gazette, 8 November 2019

The importance of Wills for cohabiting couples

Every month Rebecca Weare & Beccy Bristow solicitors at Start Point Law hold free legal clinics in Kingsbridge, Dartmouth and Salcombe libraries. 

The sessions are an opportunity to seek legal advice from a professional on a wide range of legal issues, and we are always happy to try to tackle any issue and if we don’t immediately know the answer we usually know someone who does. Our specialist areas are wills, lasting powers of attorney, inheritance tax, administration of estates, grants of probate and intestacy and disputes.

A man spoke to us this month about whether he should make a will. He lives with his girlfriend and two young children in a house they purchased a few years ago. The mortgage company insisted the property was registered in his sole name as his girlfriend was not working and would not be directly contributing to the mortgage payments.

Intestacy Rules

We explained that without a Will his girlfriend would not have any right to the property if he died.  Without a Will he would be intestate and his assets, including the property, would pass on intestacy rules to their young children, and not their mother.

As a consequence, the bank would require the mortgage transferred to the girlfriend, but they would only do that if she had an interest in the property.  His girlfriend’s only option to save the family home and keep financial stability would be to start a claim against his estate, (effectively legal proceedings against their children) for a share in the property.  A separate solicitor would be appointed for their children and legal fees would run into several thousand pounds.

This was certainly not a situation that the man or his family intended to happen but would be an unavoidable consequence of not having made a Will, the only way to ensure it didn’t happen, the man should make a will. 

Professional Advice

The next question he asked was whether he needed to take professional advice to make a Will.  We recommend that people do get their Will professionally drafted, as we have been asked to review lots of “home-made” Wills.  Frequently, people are surprised that their home-made Will does not do exactly what they had intended it to do.  It is very easy to make mistakes, even when using a “Will pack”.  Not only could a home-made Will have unintended consequences as a result of simple grammatical error or other ambiguity, but it may not be valid if you haven’t adhered to the strict requirements for signing your Will.

If you would like to discuss a legal issue, or if you would like us to review your Will, you can call 01548 288 008, email or call into our next legal clinics at Salcombe library on 13 November, Kingsbridge library on 19 November and Dartmouth library on 6 December.