Legally, it’s a bad idea to be trusting
As a solicitor, I see all sorts of issues arise when people die. Take Lynda Bellingham for instance. The lady we all associate with being the perfect "Oxo" mum put all her faith and trust in her third husband and did not leave much to her two sons when she died. Instead, she bequeathed the majority of her Estate to her husband and trusted him to financially look after her sons whilst he is still alive and in the event of his death.
As has been reported widely in the media, Lynda's sons are disappointed that they have not been provided for in her Will. It is probable that aside from the Will, Lynda and her husband owned assets as Joint Tenants which means that her husband inherited those jointly owned assets automatically by survivorship. Also, there is nothing to stop him making a Will bequeathing his Estate (which incorporates Lynda's Estate as well as any assets he may have inherited by survivorship) to whoever he wishes - leaving her sons disappointed and empty handed - and more importantly, not abiding by her wishes!
As a solicitor, I do not believe in trusting others to distribute your Estate. In the eyes of the law, once you have bequeathed assets to someone, those assets are theirs to do with whatever they wish. Legally, there is no obligation on them and, in the real world, why would they when they can legally keep the assets themselves?
In my office, I hear of this sort of thing all the time from clients and my advice remains the same...put it in your Will. Go and see a solicitor and discuss these issues with them; they have heard it all before. Instead of leaving your Estate outright to your surviving spouse/significant other, all sorts of Trusts can be drafted into Wills that enable the surviving spouse/significant other to benefit from the income of the Trust (and capital if the Trustees agree) and when they die, the Trust assets are bequeathed to the beneficiaries of your choice. It ring-fences your assets from misuse and guarantees that your wishes will be adhered to.
Don't leave it to chance and certainly don't trust anyone to "do the right thing." My best advice would be to put your wishes in a Will so that your loved ones don't end up disappointed and you can have the confidence that your legacy will pass on as you intended.
For individual advice and assistance get in touch with our Wills, Probate and Trusts Team to find out how we can help.