What Happens If I Die Without a Will?

If you die without a Will, the law will decide who gets your assets, and in what proportion. This might not align with your wishes.

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By Nicola Briggs - 24th May 2021

The intestacy laws – who gets what?

A person who dies without a Will is called an ‘intestate’. When this happens, their estate is administered under the intestacy laws. The deceased’s living relatives are placed into an order of priority. This dictates who inherits the money, property and assets in the estate, and in what proportion.

For example, where there is a spouse or civil partner and no children, that spouse or civil partner will take everything.

Where there is a spouse/civil partner and children, the spouse or civil partner will take the first £270,000 and everything else will be divided in two. One half will then be retained by the spouse/civil partner and the other half will pass to the children to be divided equally between them. If a child has already died, then their share may pass to the deceased’s grandchildren instead.

Where there is no spouse, civil partner, children or grandchildren, then everything will pass to the two parents equally. This applies even if parents are divorced or were estranged from the deceased, and where one parent is better off than the other.

In the event of there being no parents, then the estate will pass to brothers and sisters or their children, and further down the line ultimately assets could pass to first cousins.

In the rare case that there are no relatives alive at the date of death, the estate will pass to the Crown. The Crown can make grants from the estate, but they do not have to agree to do so.

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Who does not benefit under intestacy laws?

Certain people are not provided for under the intestacy laws. This includes unmarried partners, friends, children brought up as a child of the family, carers and daughters/sons-in-law. The intestacy laws also do not provide for what happens to pets or to whom your remains should be passed, and how they should be dealt with, be it burial or cremation.

Problems with intestacy

Writing a Will is not compulsory. However, it is a good idea to put one in place. Otherwise, your wishes may not be fulfilled following your death. Further problems could also arise for your loved ones.

This is illustrated by an intestate estate we recently dealt with. In this case, the father died, followed by the mother shortly thereafter. Everything passed to their only daughter, who could not bear their loss and committed suicide. None of the family had Wills and so the estate was distributed to first cousins in Latvia and the Ukraine, after a search to locate them. The second cousins, who lived in England with the family, and who knew them and cared for them, received nothing.

As this case shows, it is important for all family members to make a Will. Those writing a Will should also consider what will happen to the estate in the unlikely event of their child or children passing away shortly after they have died.

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Will vs no Will

A few things remain the same whether or not there is a Will. Inheritance Tax is not affected by the existence of a Will. The process to obtain a Grant of Representation is no quicker with a Will, but it can prevent disputes as to who should be applying for the Letters of Administration.

Make a Will today

Writing a Will shows that you have considered what you want to have happen when the time comes. A Will empowers your family and loved ones to act swiftly in accordance with your own wishes. Without a Will, any wishes you have verbally expressed during your lifetime may not be upheld, as your estate must be distributed according to the rules of intestacy.

If you would like to make a Will, contact our wills solicitors at Aticus Law for a free initial enquiry.

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