21 November 2016
What Happens if You Die Without a Will?
Following a rise in the number of disputes between family members following the death of a loved one, we decided to commission research to show the importance of writing a valid will and why you should discuss the reasons behind your decisions with your children and family.
To support the research, we will be releasing a series of blogs which highlight issues surrounding will writing and family feuds over inheritance.
Someone who dies without a valid will (known as dying ‘intestate’) will have their estate shared out according to the rules of intestacy.
In brief, the rules that apply under intestacy are as follows:
- If you have a legally registered spouse (a wife, husband or civil partner) and no children, your spouse will receive your entire estate.
- If you have a legally registered spouse and children, your spouse will only receive the first £250,000 of your estate (known as the ‘statutory legacy’), plus your personal possessions and half of the rest of your estate. The remainder of your estate will be split equally between your children once they have reached the age of 18.
Broadly speaking, your estate is the value of all your assets after the payments of any debts of the estate (including any funeral payments).
Your closest family and friends could be left with nothing if you die without writing a will.
It is a common misconception that ‘common law’ rights will apply to unmarried couples. However, legally there is no such thing as ‘common law wife’ or ‘common law husband’ – the legal rights and entitlements of those who cohabit are entirely different to those are married.
Your partner could be left in financial difficulty if you are not married and have not written them into your will.
Similarly, if you were married before meeting your current partner and have not yet divorced your ex, your new partner will not inherit anything from your estate should you die, even if you have been living together.
It is not just your partner that may miss out if you die intestate – their children could too. Even if you have been raising a child as your own, unless you have adopted them they will not receive a share of your estate.
In some cases, the family home might even have to be sold following the death of a home-owner who dies without a valid will in place.
This is why I would strongly recommend that everyone prepares a will and makes sure they update it whenever their circumstances change. This could be because of marriage, divorce, separation, the birth of children or the purchase of a house or another significant asset.
Katie Kenealy is a wills trusts and probate lawyer at Slater and Gordon in Cardiff.
The wills and probate solicitors at Slater and Gordon Lawyers can help you protect your interests and give you the peace of mind knowing your Estate is taken care of when you pass away. Call us on freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help.