During one of my recent client meetings, I asked my client who they would like to appoint as their beneficiaries in the event of a family tragedy. Subsequently, the client called me ‘Vicky Armageddon Timothy’ as, understandably, the thought of planning for a tragedy is not a nice one and one that is often disregarded. However, a recent case highlights why it is important to think carefully about who you want to benefit from your assets when you die in different situations.
This blog discusses the case of Mr and Mrs Bailey, and why you should think carefully about who to leave your assets to when it comes to writing your Will.
Case Study – The Importance of Beneficiaries in a Will
Mr and Mrs Bailey were a devoted married couple who died within a few months of each other in 2019.
Prior to this, Mr and Mrs Bailey had put Wills in place, but their Wills simply left everything to the survivor of them. They had agreed that the survivor of them would put a new Will in place following the first death. All well and good, but unfortunately it isn’t the first thing you want to do when you have just lost someone close to you. Mr Bailey went to see a solicitor to put a new Will in place, but he was still so upset at his wife’s passing away that he was unable to clarify how he wanted his estate to be divided.
Sadly, he died shortly afterwards without having written a new Will. This meant that the intestacy rules were implemented and their joint estate (i.e. all of his assets and those he inherited from Mrs Bailey) passed to his siblings, niece and nephew. Mrs Bailey’s sister and brother, who were very close to both Mr and Mrs Bailey, did not receive anything. There was a clear intention on both sides that Mrs Bailey’s family should have been entitled to some of the rather sizeable estate, but whilst the judge expressed sympathy, there was nothing he could do to change the situation.
In my view, it is much easier to think of these things when it isn’t necessary, in the knowledge that if you change your mind, you can change your Will at any time. In Mr and Mrs Bailey’s case, their priority was clearly each other and therefore they left the difficult decision of dividing their estate to the survivor.
Many people say that after a certain stage, they ‘don’t care’ what happens to their estate, and that is absolutely fine. However, when a married couple’s estate ends up passing to one side of the family rather than an equal split between both sides, it often seems unfair; particularly when, as in Mr and Mrs Bailey’s family, everyone gets on extremely well. This can potentially cause unnecessary arguments between family members or disrupt the harmony between those involved.
We would therefore recommend seeking professional advice about your Will, and spending time now to think about who should benefit if the worst were to happen. This will ensure peace of mind and prevent costly battles in the event of your death.