What Happens if You Die Without Making a Will?
Nobody wants to think about death. Considering life after you are gone is an often difficult and uncomfortable thought for all manner of reasons.
However, the prospect of dying without making a will of your own and leaving your estate in a precarious and delicately balanced position should be seen as significantly more uncomfortable. This will leave your loved ones in a highly difficult and delicate situation — a situation where conflicts are common and major rifts in the family dynamic in your wake should be expected.
This blog will discuss what happens if you die without making a will in the UK, the laws of intestacy, the benefits of making a will in a timely fashion, and much more.
What Happens if You Die Without Making a Will in the UK?
If you die without making a valid will in the UK, your estate will still be shared out among your loved ones. However, it is done according to certain measures — the laws of intestacy. Under the laws of intestacy, only close relatives and married/civil partners will inherit.
This means that people such as unmarried partners, step-children, and close friends will be unable to legitimately claim any inheritance, even if you had told them that they would receive something.
Additionally, if you die without making a legally valid will, the rules of intestacy will be what ultimately dictates how the estate is shared, not the wishes you expressed in writing in your will.
What Are Intestacy Laws?
Somebody who dies without a valid will is seen as dying intestate. Specific intestacy laws will vary depending on your situation. In a scenario where somebody dies intestate today, leaving a spouse and children, the partner inherits the estates first £270,000 and the other half is passed to the children. For estates under £270,000, the spouse inherits everything.
The laws of intestacy are essentially done in a specific hierarchy. This order starts with a spouse and shared children, and is then followed by:
- Children: When succeeded by your children with no remaining spouse, the entire estate will be divided between your children. Should a child subsequently die, their share will then be further divided amongst the remaining siblings.
- Parents: Without any spouse/civil partner or children the entire estate will be split between surviving parents.
- Siblings: If there is no spouse, no children, or no parents present, your estate will traditionally be split between any full-blooded siblings. In the event that the sibling has died, the estate will be shared among their children.
- Half blood siblings: In the absence of all of the above descendents, your estate is shared between any half blood siblings.
When the deceased dies without a surviving spouse/civil partner, child, parents, siblings, or half-blood siblings, the inheritance will go to the following people in order:
- Uncles/Aunties or descendants
- Half blood Uncles/Aunties or their descendents
Should somebody die with none of the above valid descendents present, the estate will be deemed as ‘ownerless property’ or Bona Vacantia as it may also be referred to. In this circumstance the estate will be passed to the crown or to the relevant Duchy.
What are the Benefits of Making a Will?
Writing a will gives you total control over how your property and affairs are handled after death — ensuring that your exact wishes are heeded. Therefore, the benefits of making a will are far reaching. From providing for loved ones and being able to name guardians for your children, to limiting inheritance tax and protecting your digital assets.
Arguably the most important benefit of writing a will is the ability to provide for and guarantee that loved ones are looked after and taken care of after you are gone. With a valid and written will in place before death, you are able to do a variety of things to protect and provide for loved ones. This includes the ability to name guardians who will take responsibility for the day-to-day needs of your child once you are no longer able.
You can also act to leave loved ones a share of any property in your name — such as the beloved family home, ensuring that it stays within the family.
The final and most obvious benefit of writing a will with regards to providing for loved ones is that you can leave parts of your estate to them, this can include conditions, such as placing money aside for education purposes or to help purchase a new home. With a will in place you are able to protect not only your immediate family, but can provide for step-children, close friends, etc.
Other benefits of making a will include being able to avoid some of the unnecessary inheritance tax hits that can occur, allowing your estate and legacy to go significantly further; protecting your digital assets to ensure that they are not lost forever, and more.
For additional information on the core reasons and benefits of making a will, check out our blog going into greater detail on the subject.
How Just Wills and Legal Services can Help
Creating a valid and detailed last will and testament before you die is the most important first step you can make to guarantee that your wishes and best interest are taken into account, and your estate and loved ones are looked after according to your wishes — no matter what, when, where, or how something might happen to you.
Dying without making a will can lead to your estate being handed to somebody you didn’t intend, somebody who may sell your assets and pocket the cash, it can result in parties like step-children and unmarried partners being unsupported and left to fend for themselves, and much more.
Estate planning such as creating a will is a sure-fire way of ensuring peace of mind, leaving you safe in the knowledge that once you do pass on, at least you have your affairs in order.
At Just Wills and Legal Services we realise that you might not want to think about difficult subjects such as death right now, but it is important to plan ahead and prepare for any eventuality. If today did happen to be your last, you would want to make sure that tomorrow is planned for.
Our expert team have been operating in the legal field for decades and have assisted people in all aspects of estate planning, from writing a will, creating a trust, appointing a power of attorney, and much more.
Get in touch with a member of our team today to learn more about what we can do for you, the process of writing a will, and to discuss your best options going forwards.
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