Be wary when making a will to protect your spouse

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I REFER to the slightly misleading article in Scotland on Sunday (News, 26 January) regarding rights of surviving spouses (male or female). It is my understanding that if a married couple with children have a matrimonial home worth £473,000 or less, the contents and personal effects thereof worth £29,000 or less and further cash/investment assets, car etc worth £50,000 or less, then these form what is known as the “prior rights” to which the surviving spouse is entitled before the children “get a look in”. I would suggest that an estate of that size, or smaller, probably represents the current financial circumstances of a considerable number of Scots.

However, if this married couple had made wills bequeathing their entire estate to the surviving spouse, the prior rights fall away and the children can make a perfectly legitimate claim for their legal rights against the combined value of all the house contents and effects and cash/investments, car etc. The portion of that claim would be a one-third share of that moveable estate between them. You may think that under these circumstances, no child would be so mean as to claim against their widowed parent. I can assure you after years of experience in the administration of executries, that is most certainly not the case, especially if there are step-children involved.

The situation can be made more complex if there is a child or children of a predeceasing child of the married couple in question.

My advice would be to consider carefully whether or not your surviving spouse would be better off after your demise if you did not have a will and seek the advice of a proper solicitor and avoid like the plague these pre-printed Will Forms available on the market.

John D Ridley, Scone, Perth