What happens if I don’t leave a Will?

protecting a family

First things first… what is a Will?

“A Will tells everyone what should happen to your money, possessions and property after you die (all these things together are called your ‘estate’).”

What does a Will cover?

Most importantly, a Will sets out two things, though it can cover additional aspects like your funeral too. These are:

  1. How your money, property, and possessions are to be distributed when you die i.e. what, and how much, goes to whom.
  2. Who is in charge of administering your estate (referred to as your executor(s)); this can be more than one person, and may include a solicitor but doesn’t have to.

Sounds complicated? It doesn’t need to be, though everyone’s circumstances are different. The best thing is to discuss your circumstances with an advisor.

What is ‘intestacy’?

If you die without having made a Will, this is called dying intestate.

The law varies slightly depending on whether you’re based in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but there are some issues that are common to all.

  • If you’re not married and not in a civil partnership, without a Will, your partner is not legally entitled to anything when you die.
  • If you’re married, without a Will your husband or wife may inherit most or all of your estate and your children may not get anything (except in Scotland). This is true even if you are separated but not if you’re divorced.
  • If you have children or grandchildren, how much they are legally entitled to will depend on where you live in the UK – but if you make a Will you can decide this yourself.
  • Any Inheritance Tax that your estate has to pay may be higher than it would be if you had made a Will.
  • If you die with no living close relatives, your whole estate will belong to the Crown or to the government. This law is called bona vacantia.

What happens if I don’t leave a Will?

Well, if you don’t make a Will those who are administering your estate have to turn to instructions set out in law to work out how to distribute your money, possessions and property. This will include who is eligible to receive a share, and how much they get. If you think your spouse and children automatically get everything, then you’re very likely to be wrong. And if you’re not married, but you have children, it may be that everything goes to your children and your partner gets nothing. To add complication, if you have a second family you may not end up providing the financial support where you think it’s needed most. To understand a little more about why you should have a Will we’d suggest you read our article entitled “Why should I make a Will?” here.

In summary, therefore, a Will isn’t something to leave until you’re ‘old’. Having a Will really does make things easier for family and friends during a difficult time. And it’s something that you should put in place as soon as possible if you haven’t got one.

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