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Dying without a Will

Published on 27 July 2023 | Modified on 27 July 2023

Written by Verity McKay

Wills & Probate

Dying without a Will

Its something we must acknowledge, and so often we remind ourselves ‘I better get my Will sorted’, but it is something many people put off.

If we never get around to writing our Will, we can leave behind tricky situations. This could be trying to navigate the laws of intestacy, leaving behind children with no suitable guardians or even no provision for our beloved pets. This can all leave behind unnecessary stress and perhaps your estate going to relatives who you would rather NOT inherit from your estate!

So, what is the law when you die without a Will? When someone dies without a valid Will they are described as dying ‘Intestate’. Your estate will then be administered under the ‘Intestacy Rules’.

What are the intestacy rules?

The intestacy rules determine who inherits from an estate when somebody dies without a valid Will. In summary, if you pass away without a Will, the following people inherit:

·         If you are married (or in a civil partnership) your spouse if not, then your children*.

·         If you are unmarried and have no children, then your parents.

·         If your parents have predeceased you, then your siblings.

·         If you have no siblings, then your aunts and uncles.

·         If you have no aunts and uncles then to your cousins, the cousins of your parents, or your wider family.

*note that if you are married AND have children, sometimes the estate is shared between them.

If you have a long term partner that you would wish to inherit from your estate, or if you are estranged from your family, or would rather a close friend or a charity benefited from your estate, with no Will in place, you have no say in where your money goes once you have passed away.

Making a Will allows you to have full control over your estate and prevents distant family benefiting from your hard earned wealth unless you expressly want to include them.

What does this mean?

Simply put, it means that the law decides who will inherit your estate (in the order above).

The ‘Next of Kin’ will deal with the estate. This could be someone you wouldn’t otherwise choose to act on your behalf, or perhaps someone who may struggle to cope during grief, or somebody you don’t believe to be right for the job.

Overall, the complexities of intestacy can mean that your family tree will need to be clearly understood. This can cause significant delays, as genealogists may need to be instructed to ensure that we have the full picture. This time and money spent can often can lead to frustration within the family.

The possibility of litigation

Although the intestacy rules decide how your estate will be distributed, it isn’t always this simple.

When an estate is distributed under the intestacy rules, certain people (such as those financially dependent on you) may make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 for financial provision.

This is as complex and costly as it sounds and could all easily be prevented by making a Will to ensure the people who depend on you can be looked after.  

What next?

Having a Will is having your say! You can have peace of mind that your loved ones are provided for and that your estate can be managed and distributed with ease. With the right advice we can ensure you that the process is stress free and that you leave confident that all is in order.

Don’t let the law decide for you and let us advise you how to make the best choices for your estate. Contact one of our expert Wills and Probate solicitors today for more information on how we can take the stress away of making a Will.

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