13 July 2018
What Happens If I Die With No Will?
Making a will is one of the most important things you can do. A will allows you to determine how you wish for your assets to be divided when you die. It can enable you to make provisions for your children, spouse and loved ones and, through appointing Executors, it helps ensure that your estate is passed on according to your wishes. Ultimately, a will gives you peace of mind that your affairs are in order, making life easier for your loved ones during a difficult time.
What happens if I die with no will?
Many people assume that if they die without having a will in place, then their money, savings, property and any other assets will automatically go to their spouse or children. This unfortunately isn’t always the case.
The estate - meaning assets, wealth and personal effects - of a person who doesn’t leave a will behind is subject to the rules of intestacy. These rules determine how an estate is shared out, and who will inherit what, according to certain conditions.
What are the rules of intestacy?
Intestacy is used to describe the condition of a person’s estate if they pass away without leaving a will. If a person dies intestate, the following conditions apply:
- A partner will only inherit under the rules of intestacy if they’re married to or in a legal civil partnership with the person who’s passed away. This means that if you and your partner aren’t married, or you’re divorced or have recently ended your civil partnership, this person isn’t automatically entitled to inherit anything from your estate. If you’re married or in a civil partnership and are informally separated or even if divorce proceedings haven’t completed, your ex-partner can still inherit as your partnership has not been legally terminated.
- Couples who live together but who aren’t married (“cohabitees”) don’t automatically inherit. This is one of the most common problems wills and probate solicitors come across in modern day life; many people incorrectly assume that they’re automatically entitled to inherit as a long-term partner or cohabitee. Even in you’ve lived together for decades and have children together, the Intestacy Rules don’t provide for you unless you’re in a legally recognised partnership (i.e. marriage or civil partnership).
- If an estate is worth less than £250,000 then a spouse/civil partner will inherit the entire estate. If the estate is worth more than £250,000, then the first £250,000 will pass automatically to the spouse/civil partner and the remaining amount will be split 50/50 between the spouse/civil partner and any children or other entitled parties. If there are no surviving children or any other dependants, the spouse automatically inherits the entirety of the estate.
- If the deceased is widowed or divorced, then any children of the deceased inherit the whole estate.
In the instance that there isn’t a spouse/civil partner and no children, then matters can become more complicated in how the estate is distributed. If you have lost a loved one who hasn’t left a will we strongly advise seeking legal advice on how to proceed with the administration of their estate. For more information, please don’t hesitate to call Slater and Gordon Lawyers on freephone 0808 175 8000 or contact us online.
What happens to property under intestacy?
If a couple jointly own property and one of them dies without leaving a will, the manner in which they own the property will determine how the property passes. There are two ways in which a property can be owned:
- Joint tenant: If two people own their property as joint tenants, then the surviving owner automatically inherits the deceased’s share of the property under the rules of survivorship.
- Tenants in common: If two people own their property as tenants in common, the survivor isn’t entitled to automatically inherit the deceased’s share of the property. In this instance, the deceased’s share of the property will pass under the Intestacy Rules
What happens to the estate if there are no surviving or eligible relatives?
If it becomes apparent that there isn’t a clear line of inheritance, its strongly advisable that you contact a specialist wills and probate solicitor for guidance on how to proceed.
How do I make a will?
Anyone over the age of 18 can make a will and it’s not as complicated as you may think. Though no one wishes to think about what will happen in the event of their death, forward planning helps bring comfort and reassurance to your loved ones in a time of grief and peace of mind for yourself knowing that your affairs are in order.
The expert wills and probate solicitors at Slater and Gordon are here to help guide you through the process. We’ll support and advise you every step of the way to ensure that your wishes are accurately reflected in your will.
Call Slater and Gordon Lawyers on freephone 0808 175 8000 to get started.