What happens to my estate if I don’t leave a will?
From direct descendants to the taxman, find out where your estate could go.
Not having a Will can lead to distress for your nearest and dearest at a time when they’re already dealing with the upset of your loss. If you have a partner to whom you’re not married or a stepchild that you haven’t adopted, failing to name them in a Will means they could very well lose out any inheritance you had intended for them.
The same applies if your Will is not legally valid; often the case if an individual attempts to write their Will themselves. In the event of someone dying without a Will, the law will decide who gets what from your estate, and it won’t take account of how close you were or what terms you were on with particular relatives.
How will my estate be dealt with if I don’t leave a will?
If you die without a Will, an Administrator will deal with the estate.
Dying without a Will is referred to as intestacy. The exact way this is treated differs across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but there are certain commonalities.
If you are married to your partner
In England, a married partner would expect to receive all personal property and the first £250,000 of the estate, together with half the remaining estate. The residue is divided equally between any surviving children.
Your next of kin may be able to apply for a grant of representation to fulfil the role of Administrator. This includes a spouse or civil partner from whom you were separated at the time of your death. As long as you are still married when you die, they remain your next of kin.
If you are not married to your partner
An unmarried partner is not entitled to apply for a grant of representation, nor are they automatically entitled to any part of your estate. The law will pass everything you own onto your children. This includes children you had with your unmarried partner, although any stepchildren, even if you’re married to their parent, do not inherit.
This has led to several unpleasant situations where parents have had to sue their own children for a share of the estate.
If you have no close relatives
If it’s deemed that you have no close relatives at death, the law of bona vacantia applies, which passes everything you own to the government. Remember, any unmarried partner would not inherit in this situation, nor would any relations by marriage, friends, or carers.
If you have jointly owned assets
Assets that are jointly owned will automatically pass to the surviving joint owner, which will give peace of mind if you jointly own a property with someone close.
However, this only applies if you own it as beneficial joint tenants, not as tenants in common. Any such, property or money from a joint bank account would not count towards the value of the estate of the deceased.
Why should I create a Will?
If you are not concerned about where your assets end up when you pass away then a Will won’t be a priority. In any other circumstances, you should strongly consider creating a Will. Current law dates from times when family life was far less complicated; nowadays dying without a will can cause major problems for those you leave behind.
Assuming that you want the people you love to benefit once you die, the only reliable way of ensuring your estate gets divided according to your wishes is to make a will. A Will is an important thing to consider if you have recently experienced life events such as recently marrying, having children, buying a house or experiencing a bereavement. Keeping it up-to-date is essential and can save money and trouble rather than it being out-of-date upon your death.
If you’re still asking yourself “What happens to my estate if I don’t leave a Will”, or if you would like to discuss the prospect of writing a Will, it’s best to get in touch.