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What Happens if You Die Without Making a Will?

By: J.A.J Aaronson - Updated: 18 Feb 2015 | comments*Discuss
 
Will Die Death Intestate Intestacy

Intestacy is a major problem in Britain. A surprisingly large number of people die without making a will – indeed, surveys suggest that the majority of British adults currently do not have a Will.

Of course, writing a will is not something that you are likely to be excited about doing. It is one of those things that people put off for as long as they possibly can. But dying intestate (that is, without having made a will) can be financially disastrous for your relatives – and can cause huge amounts of stress.

What are Intestacy Laws?

Intestacy laws are designed to set out a framework that determines where an individual’s property will go if they die without leaving a will. Intestacy laws are very complicated, and they often result in the wishes of the deceased individual not being followed.

But the laws are here to stay, and it is important that you understand their implications. If you die without making a will, your affairs will be dealt with according to this framework, regardless of whether or not that was your intention.

Where Does the Money Go?

If you die intestate, certain groups are said to have an ‘entitlement’ to your assets. The parties to which your money is given will depend on your personal circumstances – for example, if you have children. The following will give you a rough idea of where you can expect your money to go if you die without making a will. Note that money only passes to the beneficiaries once funeral costs, outstanding debts, and tax bills have all been paid.

If You Have a Spouse or Civil Partner

If you have a spouse or civil partner and children, your spouse or civil partner will inherit everything if the net value of the estate is £250,000 or less. If the estate is valued higher than this, the first £250,000, along with personal possessions, will go to your spouse or civil partner, and half of the remainder is split equally between the children. The spouse or civil partner receives an interest in (or income from) the other half until they die. On their death, that half will be split equally between the surviving children.

If You Have a Spouse or Civil Partner and Surviving Parents or Siblings

If you have a spouse or civil partner, and surviving parents or siblings ‘of the whole blood’ (that is, siblings with the same mother and father as you, and explicitly not half-siblings), your spouse or civil partner will inherit everything if the net value of the estate is £450,000 or less. If the net value is higher than this, the first £450,000 and personal possessions goes to your spouse or civil partner. The remaining balance is split, with 50% going to the spouse or civil partner and the remaining amount going to your parents. If your parents are no longer alive, the money will be split between your siblings equally.

If You Have Children But No Spouse or Civil Partner

If you have children but no spouse or civil partner, your entire estate will be split equally between them regardless of value. If you have parents but no spouse, civil partner or children, your entire estate will be split equally between your parents. If you have siblings but no spouse, civil partner, children or parents, your estate will be split equally between them – but if you have both whole-blood and half-blood siblings, your half-blood siblings will inherit nothing. On the other hand, if you have only half-blood siblings, your estate will be split equally between them.

If You Have Grandparents

If you have surviving grandparents but no spouse, civil partner, siblings or children, your entire estate will be split equally between the grandparents. If you have aunts and uncles but none of the other relatives already mentioned, the estate will be split between them – but again, as with siblings, if you have aunts and uncles of the whole blood and the half blood, the aunts and uncles of the half blood will inherit nothing.

Finally, if you die intestate and you leave none of the relatives listed above, your entire estate will pass to the Crown – that is, it will go into the Exchequer.

How Can I Avoid This?

Intestacy laws don’t have to govern the way in which your affairs are handled. Instead, you can make sure that your wishes are followed by taking the very simple step of writing a will. More information on writing and maintaining a valid will can be found in our article Making Your Own Will.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
@pete - that's a tricky one. It would go back to the probate registry and it would be requested that the present grant of probate be revoked. The named executor would then be entitled to try and recoup the estate and money from those who benefited, but were not originally named in the will.
James - 18-Feb-15 @ 12:30 PM
if someone dies and no will is found and matters are resolved through probate, what happens if a will is found some time afterwards.
pete - 16-Feb-15 @ 6:00 PM
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