An expert private client solicitor from law firm Shakespeare Martineau urges couples to protect their wealth for future generations after recent high-profile deaths have shone a spotlight on young widows and widowers.
According to the Office for National Statistics’ latest figures, there were an estimated 3.1 million widows in England and Wales in 2020 – just 1.7% of those were below the age of 50.
Despite making up a small percentage of the UK population, young widows have been the subject of media attention in recent years after the early deaths of The Wanted’s Tom Parker and actress Helen McCrory left their partners, Kelsey Parker and Damien Lewis, widowed aged 32 and 50 respectively and again receiving a flurry of inches in gossip columns at the point they are seen to be dating again.
Solicitor Kathleen Ryan, of law firm Shakespeare Martineau, said: “Losing a loved one at any life stage is incredibly difficult. However, the sudden death of a partner at a young age can be particularly challenging, especially if children are involved in the bereavement.
“When a partner dies young, a widow moving on, forming new bonds and loving again is almost inevitable and it should not be frowned upon. As a result, protecting your assets for your children and still allowing your surviving spouse or partner to benefit from them while they are alive has become a common issue for modern families where there are potential second marriages and step-children.”
According to Child Bereavement UK, a parent of children under 18 dies every 22 minutes in the UK – around 23,600 a year. To protect your family’s wealth for future generations – especially in the event of a subsequent marriage – Shakespeare Martineau suggests writing a life interest trust into your will.
Kathleen said: “Ultimately, this legal entity allows your estate, which can include your home, to be placed within the trust for the benefit of a named individual – usually a surviving spouse. Upon their death, the asset then passes to the ultimate beneficiaries specified within your will – typically your children.
“Most commonly, a life interest trust is set up in the wills of couples concerned about their partner re-marrying, co-habiting or entering into a civil partnership after they have passed away.
“Without one, if your estate is left outright to your surviving partner, there is a risk the property could end up in the hands of any future spouse. A life interest trust ensures your property’s ultimate destination – giving your widow the security of having a home to live in during their lifetime while ring-fencing the underlying capital for your children.
“With the average age for becoming widowed typically around 73 for women and 77 for men, according to Age UK, funds contained within a life interest trust cannot usually be considered during a financial assessment should your surviving spouse require care in the future. However, you should always check this point when you set one up.”
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