What happens if someone dies without a will?
July 14, 2022
When someone dies without a will, the law decides who is entitled to their estate under the rules of intestacy. The rules dictate who will inherit, without taking into account your individual circumstances, so if you want your estate to go to the right people, it is vital you make a will to specify your wishes. It is also important to consider that, often, the consequences of not having a will can cause additional stress for your loved ones and even family disputes, at what is already a difficult time.
What will your spouse inherit?
Under the rules of intestacy, if you are married or in a civil partnership at the time of your death, your spouse will inherit all your personal possessions and your assets up to the value of £270,000. If you have children, the remainder of your estate will be divided in half, with one half going to your spouse and the other half divided equally between your children. If you do not have children, your spouse inherits your whole estate. If you live in London or the South East, the chances are the £270,000 won’t cover your share of your home leaving your spouse in a position of not owning the whole house, let alone being able to inherit your other assets such as cash in the bank and your ISAs.
Unmarried partners, or partners not in a civil partnership, cannot inherit under the rules of intestacy, no matter the length of the relationship or whether you were living together. In this case, the only way to guarantee your partner will receive anything from your estate is to have a written will, naming them as a beneficiary.
If you already have a will in place, it is vital you update it when you get married. In England and Wales, the act of getting married invalidates any existing will and so, unless you make a new one, the rules of intestacy will apply.
What will your children inherit?
If you have no surviving spouse, intestacy rules dictate that your estate is split equally between your children. While adopted children will inherit in the same way as biological children, neither stepchildren (unless legally adopted) or foster children are entitled to inherit. If you want to ensure your foster children and stepchildren receive their fair share, you need to have a written will.
What if you have no spouse or children?
If you’re not married or in a civil partnership and do not have any children, your wider family will inherit your estate. Beneficiaries could include your parents, siblings, grandparents or aunts and uncles. In this situation, there’s a chance your estate could end up in the hands of a distant relative or estranged family member. If you have no living relatives, you might wish to leave money to charity or friends. If this is the case, a written will is essential as, in its absence, your entire estate will be passed to the Crown.
Another important reason to make a will is because intestacy rules do not take into account individual circumstances. If you are a carer or have someone who is completely dependent on you, and you pass away, that person will likely be left with nothing.
If you need to make a will or have an existing will that needs updating, call Beth King today on 020 8313 1300 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss what you need
The information contained in this article is intended for general guidance only. It provides useful information but it is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice as the articles do not take into account specific circumstances. So do please Contact US for legal advice on the issues raised.