When a person dies without a Will, this is called “dying intestate”. It means that instead of their assets being distributed by means of their Will, the government step in with rules that determine what happens. So, if you don’t have a Will, basically the law will decide who inherits your estate.
This also applies where a Will is deemed invalid, or where not all assets of the Will are covered. For example, where all named beneficiaries have died, and no other provision has been made. This is one reason we conduct a full fact find when we are taking a Will instruction.
The rules of intestacy are at least simple. They were enacted back in 1925, and have been updated a number of times since, with the latest amendments in 2020. This upped the amount that a surviving spouse inherits, to take into account rises in inflation.
Your husband or wife will not get everything
Or at least, they may not if your estate value exceeds £270,000. When we are calculating your estate value, this will include real estate (property), cars, jewellery, cash, bonds, shares and other investments etc.
So, you can see how it is easier that you might expect to hit this limit. Intestacy ultimately might mean that children co-own your property with your spouse. This may seem reasonable to some people. But what if the children later go through a divorce, or experience financial difficulties? Your estate may be subject to these proceedings, and that might mean your spouse being forced to sell up.
Intestacy laws also don’t take your wishes into account at all. If you had children who you don’t wish to inherit for whatever reason, this won’t be accounted for. If you are in an unmarried relationship, your partner will not be provided for at all. The charity that you always wanted to support wouldn’t get a look in either.
So, we would always advise you not to leave the Government to sort out your affairs. They have rules that attempt to deal with these situations. Unfortunately as a result of trying to please everyone, they often don’t please anyone.