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Sideways Disinheritance

What is Sideways Disinheritance

It is common for couples to prefer simplicity when creating a Will, often opting to leave everything to their spouse or partner for the sake of ensuring their well-being after passing away. The belief is that jointly owning everything with their partner, even if certain assets are individually owned, provides a straightforward arrangement. However, the issue of Sideways Disinheritance can arise when individuals with children from previous relationships remarry, unintentionally disinheriting their own children.

Example:

To illustrate this potential scenario, let’s consider Mr and Mrs Smith, who have crafted Mirror Wills, leaving everything to each other and then to their daughter upon the second person’s demise. After Mrs Smith’s death, Mr Smith remarries, and he and his new wife, Ms Jones, reside in a property solely owned by Mr Smith. Being aware that remarriage revokes a Will, Mr Smith creates a new Mirror Will with Ms Jones, leaving everything to each other and then evenly dividing it between his daughter and Ms Jones’s two sons from her previous marriage.

Upon Mr Smith’s death, his entire Estate passes to Ms Jones in accordance with his Will. Ms Jones subsequently devises a new Will that disinherits Mr Smith’s daughter, directing everything to her two sons instead. Consequently, Mr Smith’s daughter receives nothing from her parents’ Estate.

The rise of blended families, including children born to unmarried parents and the prevalence of divorces, has brought attention to this issue. If you find yourself in such a situation, desiring to provide for your children while also supporting your new spouse in the event of your demise, taking the step to create a new Will after remarriage becomes crucial.

While a simple action, making a new Will can safeguard your children from inadvertent disinheritance. Unfortunately, many people either forget to update their Will or trust their new partner to act appropriately, ignoring the potential legal ramifications. To address this, legal solutions exist to protect both your new partner and your children.

One effective option is to incorporate a Trust into your Will. This means that upon your death, your assets enter a Trust rather than directly passing to your spouse or partner. Managed by appointed Trustees, this Trust safeguards your assets and designates a ‘Tenant for Life’—the person permitted to reside in your property and receive income generated by the ring-fenced assets for their lifetime or until remarriage.

Upon the death or remarriage of your spouse, the assets in the Trust pass to your children, thus preventing accidental or enforced sideways disinheritance. Had Mrs Smith included a Trust in her Will, she could have secured her share of the property in a Trust, allowing her husband to reside there for his lifetime. However, upon his death, her share would still pass to her daughter.

Therefore, the crucial question to consider is how important it is for your bloodline to inherit from your estate, and whether your Wills adequately reflect this. If ensuring that your children receive assets is a top priority for you, and the prospect of another family benefiting in case of your partner’s remarriage is concerning, it is advisable to reach out for a review or update of your Wills.

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