Wills for Married Couples

Making sure your family get the best you have to give without the stress, strife or sadness by utilising a flexible will

Married couples! If You Have Children….

Only the first £270,000 of your wealth will go to your spouse if you die without a will?

Many married couples we consult with, mistakenly think their wealth will automatically pass to the surviving spouse, which is why they've overlooked creating a will. By implementing fully flexible wills for married couples, we can dispel this misconception. We aim to educate our clients, enabling them to make informed decisions based on their unique situations. Have you also assumed that your spouse will automatically inherit everything?

What exactly Does ‘Flexibility' Mean?

Flexibility in drafting wills for married couples is all about preserving choice and control. It's a crucial aspect that many overlook, given the unpredictability of life and the decisions our loved ones can make.

As a parent, you might have experienced the bewildering phase of teenage years, understanding how children can make the most unexpected choices. All we can do is love them and try to comprehend the basis of their decisions.

Take, for instance, your daughter decides to elope and marry someone you're certain won't be a lasting partner. Or perhaps your son stumbles upon what he believes is the investment opportunity of a lifetime, promising a 150% return in 14 days. He then decides to spend all of his 50K inheritance he received from his beloved grandparent.

Such scenarios highlight why flexibility in wills for married couples is essential. The key is delegating control to a trusted third-party who can manage how the wealth is distributed according to your terms. This ensures that your wealth is safeguarded from unforeseen family situations or even inevitable changes in circumstances.

Moreover, having flexible wills for married couples allows your trusted advisers to assess situations such as shifts in law and tax legislation. They can ensure that your wealth is maximally protected while also relieving your loved ones of the burden of technical decision-making. All they need to do is ‘enjoy' the asset when they eventually gain access to it. In essence, flexibility in drafting wills for married couples provides a protective layer over your assets, preparing for uncertainties and ensuring your wishes are fulfilled.

Should wills for married couples be separate?

Legal experts frequently recommend separate wills for married couples. This is primarily due to the control it affords each spouse over their individual assets. Separate wills for married couples allow each party to clearly define who inherits what, reducing potential conflicts among heirs after the couple's passing. This clarity in asset distribution can prevent misunderstandings and disputes, ensuring a smoother wealth transition.

Another significant advantage of separate wills for married couples is the flexibility they provide. Life circumstances and family dynamics can change drastically over time. With separate wills, each spouse has the liberty to independently modify their will as necessary, without requiring the other's consent. This adaptability allows significant changes in circumstances to be accommodated, ensuring the will remains relevant.

Lastly, separate wills enable each spouse to tailor their will based on their unique needs and desires. This ensures that individual wishes are respected and executed as intended. For instance, if a spouse has children from a previous relationship, they can specify in their will that a portion of their assets should go to these children. This level of customization in wills for married couples allows for a more personalized approach to estate planning, ensuring all loved ones are considered.

Do The Questions Below Apply To You?

These are the common challenges that kill people's plans for their children.

Do You Have Assets Worth More Than £270,000?

Without the correct planning, the wealth may not flow in the direction you need it to. In fact, it could end up burdening your loved ones with legal complications, unnecessary taxes, or disputes. Proper estate planning ensures your assets are distributed according to your wishes, providing security and peace of mind to your family.

Are You using Mirror Wills to maximise your planning?

As a married couple, if you lack a will or use an inappropriate type, you might be overlooking a significant opportunity. The foremost strategy should be to consider mirror wills for married couples, if it's suitable for your situation.

Are You Aware of The Special Tax Breaks for Married Couples?

When crafting wills for married couples, it's crucial to consider special tax breaks. Certain provisions in tax law, like the unlimited marital deduction, allow spouses to pass assets to each other tax-free. This can significantly reduce the estate tax burden, making estate planning smoother.

If you already Have A Will, Has It been reviewed since 2015?

There were significant change to the law relating to Inheritance Tax which may be of extreme significance. The way your current Will has been drafted may cause significant lost to your family due to inheritance tax

Do You Have Children who Need Special Care and Attention?

There are special provisions that can be made in order to provide the best support for loved ones who are vulnerable and require care and love.

Are you a homeowner?

If you are a home or property owner and also have children, you could be missing out on some vital tax and asset protection planning. By not exploring the various options available, you may inadvertently leave your estate exposed to hefty inheritance taxes or legal disputes. It's essential to ensure that your hard-earned assets are preserved for your children's future.

How can married couples ensure their wills are legally binding and effectively represent their wishes?

The significance of having legally binding wills for married couples is critical. To guarantee their will is legally binding, couples need to understand the laws in their specific jurisdiction that dictate how a will should be written and witnessed. Generally, it's mandatory to have at least two witnesses present during the signing of the will. These witnesses should not be beneficiaries named in the will to avoid potential conflicts of interest that could lead to the invalidation of the document.

For wills for married couples to effectively represent their wishes, they must be drafted with clarity and specificity. This involves accurately identifying each beneficiary and detailing the specific assets they are to inherit. If there are certain possessions or assets to be divided among multiple beneficiaries, it's crucial to clearly define the method of division within the will. This can help prevent future disputes among beneficiaries and ensure a smooth transition of the estate after the couple's passing.

Finally, seeking professional advice from legal experts, like those at ONCE Wills & Trusts, can be immensely beneficial in ensuring that wills for married couples are both legally binding and accurately represent their wishes. These professionals bring a wealth of knowledge in estate law and can guide couples through the process of drafting a comprehensive, clear, and legally sound will. They can also provide advice on other critical aspects of estate planning, like appointing an executor and establishing trusts for minors or dependents.

What are mirror wills and are they a good option for married couples?

Wills for married couples have evolved over time and mirror wills have emerged as a popular choice. These are two almost identical legal documents where both partners in a marriage leave their possessions to each other, and then to their children or other beneficiaries. The main advantage of these wills for married couples is the flexibility they offer. Unlike joint wills, mirror wills can be amended by the surviving spouse after the death of the first spouse, allowing for adjustments based on changing circumstances or needs.

Despite their benefits, drafting these wills for married couples requires careful consideration. The language used in these legal documents must precisely represent the intentions of both parties to avoid potential conflicts among beneficiaries after the second partner's passing. Additionally, married couples should consider the potential tax implications of mirror wills. Without proper planning, these wills could inadvertently result in a larger tax burden for the estate, impacting the inheritance left for beneficiaries.

While mirror wills provide a convenient and simple solution for many, they may not be the best choice for all situations. In cases involving complex family dynamics or substantial personal assets, separate wills might be more suitable. These wills for married couples allow for more personalized estate planning, catering to unique circumstances and requirements. Therefore, the decision between mirror and separate wills should be made after thorough consideration of all factors, ideally with the counsel of a legal professional.

What gives a Will it's ‘Flexibility'?

The term flexible trust was originally associated with the use of a type of trust known as a discretionary trust.

Trusts have been used inside of Wills for many, many years. The rules changed in March 2006 and the use of the ‘2 year' discretionary trust has opened significant doors for planning powerful and ‘flexible' Wills.

Trusts need a whole page all on their own for a decent introduction to the topic, however what we can share with you, is that a trust is one of the few devices recognised within the legal system that provides a mechanism to allow the concept of ‘Own Nothing Control Everything (ONCE – did you see what we did there?) to be explored and utilised to its core.

Flexible Wills for married couples | What gives a Will it's flexibility?

What elements contribute to the ‘flexibility' of a Will, particularly considering trusts?

The concept of a flexible trust is often linked with a specific type of trust called a discretionary trust. Trusts have been integrated into Wills for an extensive period, but a change in rules in March 2006 introduced the ‘2-year' discretionary trust. This shift opened up substantial opportunities for developing potent and ‘flexible' Wills.

A trust is one of the rare legal tools that provide a mechanism to explore and utilize the principle of ‘Own Nothing Control Everything' (ONCE). This principle allows control over assets without actual ownership, providing protection against potential financial risks while still enabling you to benefit from the assets.

Flexibility in a Will can be enhanced by various elements. For instance, flexible life interest trusts allow trustees to decide the income or capital beneficiaries should receive. Also, discretionary trusts give trustees full discretion to determine how and when beneficiaries can benefit. Provisions for changing circumstances, like new family members or changes in law, also augment a Will's flexibility.

What factors contribute to making a Will ‘flexible', especially in the context of trust structures?

The term ‘flexible trust' is typically associated with a type of trust known as a discretionary trust. Trusts have been incorporated into Wills for a significant period, but the landscape changed in March 2006 when rules were amended to allow the use of ‘2-year' discretionary trusts. This development heralded new prospects for crafting powerful and ‘flexible' Wills.

Flexibility in a Will can be achieved through several means. For example, flexible life interest trusts empower trustees to decide on the income or capital to be received by beneficiaries. Discretionary trusts provide trustees with total discretion to determine the manner and timing of benefits for beneficiaries. Additionally, incorporating provisions for evolving circumstances, such as new family members or changes in the law, enhance a Will's flexibility. These elements ensure that your Will remains adaptable and effective in fulfilling your wishes.

Using a Standard Will

What are the Benefits of using a Flexible Will for married couples?

  • Excellent for Inheritance Tax Planning
  • Provides extra protection for your loved ones against third party threats and surprises
  • Allows for wealth to be passed down to the future generations
  • Very difficult for any ‘surprises' to take place and allows for any change in future events such as changes in the law
  • Utilising Mirror Wills will add even more robustness and flexibility
  • A great asset protection tool.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better for married couples to have separate wills or a joint will?
Joint wills, while seemingly a practical choice for wills for married couples, are frequently not the best fit due to their inability to be altered after one spouse's passing. This rigidity can lead to issues if there are significant shifts in life situations, like the birth of additional children or major alterations in financial status. In contrast, separate wills provide more flexibility and let each spouse cater to their specific wishes concerning their individual assets. Thus, they are typically favored by legal professionals.

What does a mirror will mean for married couples?
Mirror wills, often chosen by married couples, are essentially two almost identical legal documents where each partner primarily bequeaths their assets to the other, and then to alternate beneficiaries, usually children. These types of wills for married couples are popular due to the flexibility they offer the surviving spouse. Following the death of one partner, the remaining spouse can adjust the will to accommodate changing circumstances, like remarriage or the birth of more children.

Is it necessary for all married couples to have a will?
Absolutely, it's highly advised that everyone, including married couples, have a will. A will serves as a legally binding document that ensures your assets are distributed according to your wishes after death. Without a will, state laws govern the division of your property, which may not match your preferences or could potentially ignore the needs of non-traditional family members, such as stepchildren. Therefore, having a will is essential to protect your loved ones and your assets.

What happens if a married couple doesn't have a will?
Without wills for married couples, state laws, referred to as intestacy laws, dictate how your assets are divided among your survivors, generally favoring spouses and children. Unfortunately, these laws often neglect personal relationships or individual needs, possibly leading to disagreements among survivors or undesired beneficiaries. Therefore, having wills for married couples is essential to ensure their estate is distributed according to their wishes and that the needs of their loved ones are addressed.

How does a will protect the interests of married couples?
A will acts as a legal document that directs the distribution of your assets after you pass away. For married couples, this ensures that the surviving spouse is provided for and that any additional assets are distributed according to your wishes. Moreover, a well-drafted will can also provide instructions for the care of minor children, name guardians, and minimize potential estate taxes, adding another layer of protection for the family's interests.

Can a will be changed after one spouse's death?
When considering wills for married couples, separate or mirror wills are often preferred. These options provide the surviving spouse with the flexibility to modify their will after the death of the other, an important feature for adapting to new situations or changing wishes. Conversely, joint wills, which become unchangeable after the first spouse's death, are typically not recommended for married couples. Their inflexibility can cause complications if the surviving spouse undergoes significant life changes.

What should be considered when creating wills for married couples?
When drafting wills for married couples, it's crucial to carefully consider each spouse's individual wishes and the needs of any children involved. It's also important to account for potential tax implications and anticipate future changing circumstances. These could include the possibility of remarriage or the birth of additional children. A comprehensive approach ensures that all bases are covered, providing peace of mind for the couple and their loved ones.

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