It is not commonly realised that if you live with someone to whom you are not married, if you do not make a Will leaving your assets to them, then on your death they will not automatically receive anything from your estate.
Family arrangements are now increasingly complex. People may have married and divorced, remarried or lived with somebody and they may have had children with a number of different partners; so it is often not clear as to who “their children” are. What happens when people die without a Will or without making their intentions clear?
If there is uncertainty, if it is not clear who is going to inherit, then families can, and often do, fall out. Perhaps there is an unmarried partner – they will have a claim to part of the estate – obviously any children will also have a claim, and possibly children from a previous marriage will have a claim if they are still and young and dependant in any way. What about a spouse or an ex-spouse?
If the person who dies is living with someone to whom they are not married then that person may expect to inherit the house, but under the Rules of Intestacy it may pass to children or other relatives. Houses are valuable assets and are worth arguing over. All the family members have different and competing interests. If they all instruct Lawyers to argue their case and there is a possibility that the matter will go to Court then tens of thousands of pounds can be spent and those very assets that are in dispute are used up paying legal fees!
Ideally you should make a Will that sets out your intentions very clearly but if there is no Will or if there is still a dispute, then far better to consider mediation.
Mediation is very relevant when there are disputes about Wills or what is to happen to assets on death, just as it is relevant when people separate. It is equally important to try and resolve differences without going to the Court and for all sides to reach an agreement that they can be happy with. Otherwise a lot of money can be spent going to Court where an arbitrary decision is made which may suit no one.
Far better to mediate than to litigate.