With the summer wedding season now well under way, West Midlands law firm Challinors has issued a warning to husbands and wives-to-be who either fail to make a will or forget to update their existing one as soon as they have tied the knot.
According to Fiona Debney, partner at Challinors, newlyweds run the risk of leaving their spouse at the mercy of the Government's inheritance laws.
Ms Debney said: "There are several misconceptions around will making and many newly marrieds wrongly believe if they die without having made one, their widow or widower will automatically inherit their estate.
"This is not the case, and the current legal position dictates that they will only be entitled to the first £125,000, together with any personal possessions.
"They will then share half of what is left with any children. If there are no children, the spouse will inherit the first £200,000 and any personal possessions. Of the remaining amount, half goes to the spouse and half to the deceased's parents. If the parents are no longer alive, half goes to surviving brothers and sisters, and if they too are no longer alive, the inheritance is passed to their children.
"Recent research shows that only half the population has a will, and indeed for the 25-44 year-old age group this figure drops to just under a quarter, indicating that many spouses stand to lose out if the unthinkable happens to their loved ones. And even those who have previously made a will and believe they have made their final wishes very clear could also be in the same position, as the act of getting married can make all or part of an existing will invalid or inaccurate.
"It is therefore crucial that the will is reviewed as soon as the happy couple have walked up the aisle."
According to Ms Debney, there are many reasons why making a will is not on the agenda for modern couples, particularly those who are planning their nuptials.
She continued: "The majority of couples simply do not want to consider the idea of making preparations for one's death around the time of their wedding. And with so much to do in terms of organising the 'big day', the bride and groom are more likely to be focusing on table plans rather than dividing up their future wealth.
"Furthermore, will making has a real image problem among younger people who view the process as being the exclusive domain of their dying elders. However, with the average house price approaching £170,000 and society becoming yet more consumer-drive and materialistic, there is now more reason than ever before to make a will earlier on in life.
"A wedding should act as a very strong impetus to address this important issue, given that those entering into matrimony now have the interests of a co-dependent to consider. But as inheritance law does not recognise cohabitants' rights, it also makes sense for couples who live together to make a will or risk falling foul of the Government's inheritance laws."