According to the Law Society of England and Wales, every year, thousands of people die without making a will or without having a properly drafted will.
If you die without having made a will, you will die “intestate” and your estate will be dealt with under the intestacy rules. So what does this mean for you?
The intestacy rules allow for your estate to be distributed to your closest blood relatives (whether you like them or not!) The rules do not take into account any of your wishes.
Whilst many of us don’t wish to dwell on our own demise too much, isn’t it one of life’s certainties?
Here are some of the ways in which your loved ones could be affected should you die without making a will:
Married or in a civil partnership with kids
Your spouse will inherit the first £250,000 of your estate and is then entitled to a further half of anything above that amount. Your children will inherit the remaining half of anything over the £250,000 threshold. If your estate is worth less than £250,000, your children will not inherit anything.
Note – this applies even if you have separated but not yet divorced. Whilst a lot of breakups are amicable, we doubt there are many who would wish for their estranged spouse to inherit the majority of their estate. See our factsheet on Marriage, Divorce and Civil partnership for further information
Married or in a civil partnership – no kids
Your spouse will inherit the whole estate. Again, this applies if you have separated but not yet divorced or dissolved the civil partnership.
Unmarried with children
Your children will inherit your estate. If you have a partner, they will not inherit anything regardless of how long you have been together.
Grandchildren but no surviving children or spouse
Grandchildren including great grandchildren are next in line when it comes to inheritance if their parents die before you and they will inherit the entire estate. Again, your partner will not be taken into consideration.
Unmarried and no surviving children/grandchildren or great grandchildren
If you are unmarried, the intestacy rules treat you as single regardless of whether you are in a relationship when you die. Your estate will be distributed to your nearest living blood relatives. This could be your parents, siblings or long lost aunt 3 times removed. Your partner would receive nothing from your estate.
Your biological and legally adopted children all have the same rights when it comes to your estate. However, it should be noted that step-children are not included within the intestacy rules regardless of the length and nature of your relationship.
No surviving blood relatives
In the event that you die without making a will and have no living relatives, your entire estate will go to the Crown (a.k.a. the government). Not sure that many people would choose this option!
Making a Will
Dealing with a death in the family is difficult enough without the arguments that will inevitably arise should you fail to make your wishes clear in a will. Do you have any particular requirements for your funeral arrangements, take the stress away from your family by setting your wishes out before you die. You may think this is a morbid subject but your family will appreciate having one less thing to worry and think about following your death.
You can pick up a DIY Will kit in a local supermarket for around £5. This is good enough for a small number of people. You can also instruct a professional will writer (these are usually unqualified and have limited knowledge).
The Law Society of England and Wales recommends that you choose a reputable Solicitor to prepare a will on your behalf. They will not only take your instructions but provide you with advice in relation to your will and ensure that your will is legal and will not cause problems in the future.
There is some really useful information on the Law Society’s website in relation to making a will http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/for-the-public/common-legal-issues/making-a-will/
We can of course assist you in making a will and advising on Lasting Powers of Attorney and other areas regarding your finances and welfare in the future. Should you wish to talk to us about making a will, please contact a member of the team below or complete the contact form on this page and we will call you back.