What happens if you don’t make a Will?

On our “Making or Updating a Will” page we’ve already outlined many good reasons to make a Will before you die.  But what happens if you don’t?  Who will receive your assets and how much?

Many people automatically assume that if they die their assets will automatically go to their partner, but sadly this isn’t necessarily the case.  Dying without a Will is called “Intestacy” or “Dying Intestate” and each year the Government makes millions of pounds from people who haven’t made their wishes clear in a Will.  Don’t let this happen to you!

The rules on Intestacy are set out in the Administration of Estates Act 1925 amended by the Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act 2014 which simplified the previous rules a little.

We can divide the intestacy rules into two sections, depending on whether you are married/in a civil partnership or not:

A – If you ARE married or in a civil partnership

  • If your estate is worth up to £250,000 then your spouse/partner will automatically inherit everything even if you are separated. This is fine if you are still together, but not if you want to give assets to your children/others or if you and your partner are no longer together
  • If your estate is worth more than £250,000 and you have no children then again your spouse/partner again will inherit everything even if you are separated – with all the same issues we have listed above
  • If your estate is worth more than £250,000 and you have children then things start to get more complicated. Your spouse will inherit your personal possessions (your “chattels”), the first £250,000 and then half of the remainder.  The remaining half will be divided equally amongst your children and if you have any deceased children their children (your grandchildren) will inherit their share.  This carries on down the line if their children are also deceased (to your great grandchildren) and so on

B – If you ARE NOT married or in a civil partnership

  • The key thing to get across here is that inheritance law does not recognise “common law” relationships, so if you are not married or in a civil partnership, your partner is not legally entitled to a penny – this is a potential bombshell for the hundreds of thousands of people who live together but have never married and haven’t made a Will
  • If you have children, your estate will be divided equally amongst them. As above, if you have any deceased children their children (your grandchildren) will inherit their share.  This carries on down the line if their children are also deceased (to your great grandchildren) and so on
  • If you don’t have children, your estate will be inherited by any surviving relatives in this order:
    • Parents
    • Brothers and sisters (or their children, children’s children and so on)
    • Half brothers and sisters (or their children, children’s children and so on)
    • Grandparents
    • Uncles and aunts who are whole brothers/sisters of one of your parents (or their children, children’s children and so on)
    • Uncles and aunts who are half brothers/sisters of one of your parents (or their children, children’s children and so on)
  • Finally, if there is nobody who satisfies any of these criteria, then this is called dying “Bona Vacantia” and your whole estate will go to the Government!

As you can see, the rules are complex and potentially hugely unfair.  All of this can be avoided with one simple fix – contact Backhouse Solicitors today and let us help you make a Will!

Tel:         01245 893400
Email:     [email protected]
Visit:       71 Duke Street, Chelmsford, CM1 1JU
Or send us a message through the Contact Us page on this website.