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What happens when there is no Will?

When you die without leaving a valid Will, there are strict rules in place known as the ‘Intestacy Rules’ which decide how your estate is divided. The rules have no regard for your previous relationships with those people, which can mean your estate passes to an estranged family member.

Recent case example:

Mr B came to make a Will even though he is not married and has no children. He has just purchased a property in his sole name therefore has decided to make a Will.  He did this because he was aware that if he died without having made a Will, his estate would pass to his biological father under the intestacy rules.  Mr B has no relationship with his biological father, his mother has already passed away and therefore he does not wish his father to inherit anything from him.   By making a Will Mr B has now ensured that his assets/estate will pass to whom he wants to benefit.

By leaving a valid Will that says clearly who should get your property and money when you die, you can prevent unnecessary distress at an already difficult time for your family or friends. We’ve seen unmarried parents have to sue their own children to get a share of their partner’s estate when their partner dies, simply because the law states that in this situation the children get everything.

The word ‘valid’ is the key here as someone may think they are covered as they’ve written a Will at home, but if it has not been witnessed properly for example then it will be deemed invalid and the intestacy rules will still then apply.   

Why use a solicitor to write your Will? 

Click here to view our quick guide to why you should use a solicitor to write your Will. 

What are the Intestacy Rules?

The Intestacy rules which are enforced when there is no Will, are as follows:

  1. If you’re married or in a civil partnership and you die intestate, your spouse or civil partner will NOT automatically receive all of your estate. They will only receive your personal possessions, along with:
  • From the 6th February 2020, the first £270,000 of your estate, plus half of the rest of the estate. The other half of the estate will go to any children, grandchildren or great grandchildren.
  • If you have no children then they will get all of the rest of your estate
  • If your estate is worth less than £270,000 your spouse or civil partner will inherit the whole of your estate and your children will receive nothing.

If you are going through a divorce we advise that you write a new Will without delay. If anything were to happen before the relationship legally ends your spouse would still be entitled to inherit, and depending on the value of the estate your children may get nothing.

Please note:

  • Step-children are not considered to be your children and will not be provided for under the intestacy rules. You must legally adopt them or write a Will to ensure they are provided for
  • The law does not recognise “common law” partners, if you are cohabiting and have not made a Will there is no guarantee that the partner will benefit
  • If you have joint bank accounts, the account passes automatically by survivorship to the other joint account holder
  • In most cases your home is the biggest asset during your lifetime, which in turn can make the life insurance pay out significant upon death. Only a Will can guarantee where this goes and how it is divided
  • The way in which you own property and land together can make a difference to who inherits it upon death. 

 If you die intestate leaving no surviving spouse or civil partner, your estate will be distributed in the following order, which is:

  • If you have children (including legally adopted), they will inherit all of your estate in equal shares when they reach 18 (or if they marry before 18). If a child has already died, his or her children (the grandchildren) will inherit their share of the estate.
  • If there are no children, your surviving parents will inherit your estate in equal shares.
  • If there are none of the above, your brothers and sisters will inherit in equal shares. If a brother or sister has already died, their children (your nieces and nephews) will inherit their share of the estate.
  • If there are none of the above, your half-brothers and half-sisters will inherit your estate. If a half-brother or half-sister has died, their children will inherit their share of the estate.
  • If there are none of the above, your grandparents will inherit your estate in equal shares.
  • If there are none of the above, your aunties and uncles will inherit your estate. If an auntie or uncle has already died, their children (your cousins) will receive their share of the estate.
  • If there are none of the above, your half-aunties and half-uncles will inherit your estate. If a half-auntie or half-uncle has already died, their children will inherit their share of the estate.
  • If you have no surviving blood relatives, your estate is passed to the Crown.

The only way to truly guarantee that your estate is given to whom you wish is to write a Will.  Our specialist team at Banner Jones can guide you through the different types of Wills so that we prepare the right one to suit your circumstances.  Families can be complex and it’s important to have a Will written that reflects your wishes properly.

For more information or to make an appointment please call 03300176309.



Talk to our team today on:
0330 017 6309

Kathryn Wheeldon
Kathryn Wheeldon
Head of Wills & Probate
Katie Woodward
Katie Woodward

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