With 42% of marriages in England and Wales ending in divorce and an increased likelihood of people entering second marriages, complicated family arrangements have become mainstream.

It is not unusual for families to be made up of step-children, alongside natural children and new spouses.

Unfortunately, if not handled correctly, this can lead to an increased risk of inheritance disputes.

The fact is that if you don’t make a will setting out who you wish to inherit your assets, your spouse will inherit everything.

Many people entering a second marriage have children from their first marriage who they would wish to provide for on death, but with no will, these children could inherit nothing.

Similarly, standard mirror wills where one partner leaves their estate to the other in the event of their death, will not provide for children and step-children and can lead to inheritance disputes.

For example, Mr and Mrs Beswick have both been married before and each have two children from their previous marriages. They have prepared standard mirror wills.

Mr Beswick dies first and his estate passes to Mrs Beswick. When Mrs Beswick dies her estate passes to her own children, but Mr Beswicks’ children are left with nothing and do not inherit a share of their father’s estate.

With careful planning, you can prepare a life interest will to ensure your current spouse is financially secure and your assets protected for your children. This is especially effective where the family home is the main asset.

To make a life interest will you will need to own your property as tenants in common rather than jointly, so that your share of the property can be left in trust to your children.

Under these circumstances Mrs Beswick would have had full use and occupation of the property, but when she passed away Mr Beswick’s share would have passed to his children, ensuring that the children of each marriage were treated fairly.

Even if the surviving spouse remarries or downsizes, the deceased spouse’s half share is ring-fenced for the children. It also has the benefit that if the surviving spouse requires care for which they are charged in the future, only their share of the property can be used towards the fees.

If you would like to discuss your family circumstances and get advice about what type of will would suit you best, call 01782 205000 or email enquiry@beswicks.com