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What happens if you die without making a Will?

Over half of the UK population do not have a Will. Although we encourage people to make a Will to ensure their loved ones are safeguarded we understand that sometimes it does not seem like a priority. In those circumstances, we think it is important for people to understand what happens to your assets if you die without making a Will.

If you die without making a Will your estate is administered in accordance with strict rules, known as the rules of intestacy. It means you have died ‘intestate’ and your family structure and the value of your estate will determine how your estate is distributed and who will benefit. This is often much more complicated and costly for your loved ones.

What is the order to determine who inherits (as per the intestacy rules)?

  1. Husband, wife or civil partner.
  2. Children (or their descendants).
  3. Parents.
  4. Siblings (or their descendants).
  5. Half siblings (or their descendants).
  6. Grandparents.
  7. Uncles and aunts (or their descendants).
  8. Half uncles and aunts (or their descendants).

If no one can be identified as having one of the above relationships to you or are descendants of one of the above, the estate is likely to pass to the crown.

Die without making a will

Who won’t automatically inherit if you die without making a Will?

If someone outside of the intestacy rules is dependent on you such as a stepchild they may be able to make a claim for financial provision by instructing a solicitor however this can be a lengthy and costly process. It is always best to make a Will detailing who you would like to benefit so no one is left vulnerable.

We would suggest reading the most relevant circumstance to you below so you have an understanding of how your estate will likely be distributed if you do not make a Will. If you would prefer your estate to be distributed in another way or would like to choose who administers your estate, you should contact our Inheritance Protection team. Our solicitors can advise you on how to plan your estate effectively so your assets are left to who you wish.

If you are single, have no children and have not made a Will your estate will be given to the relevant person(s) highest in the above list or their descendants. Firstly your estate would be shared equally between your parents. If one parent has passed away your estate will go to the surviving parent.

If both of your parents have passed away your estate will be distributed in this order of living family members:

  • Siblings. If a sibling has passed away before you their share would go to their children, your nieces or nephews.
  • Half siblings. If a half sibling has passed away before you their share would go to their children, your half nieces or half nephews.
  • Grandparents
  • Uncles and aunties. If an aunt or uncle passed away before you leaving children (or more remote descendants), they would inherit, your cousins.
  • Half aunts and uncles (or their descendants).

If none of these family members can be identified, the crown would inherit your estate.

If you are single and have a child or children they will inherit your estate at the age of 18. If you have more than one child the estate will be shared equally between them. If you had a child that passed away but they had children their share will be divided equally between those children (your grandchildren). You also won’t be able to choose who has the responsibility for administering your estate and investing the money for any minor beneficiaries.

You should also consider reading our What happens to your children if you die without making a Will? page.

If your estate is less than £270,000 all of your estate will go to your husband, wife or civil partner.

If your estate exceeds £270,000 and you have children or grandchildren your spouse or civil partner will not inherit all of your estate. Your husband, wife or civil partner will inherit the first £270,000 of your estate and all your personal possessions. The remainder of your estate will be shared between your spouse or civil partner and the other half of the remainder will be divided equally between your children. If one of your children has passed away, their share will be inherited by their children (your grandchildren). You won’t be able to choose who has the responsibility for administering your estate and investing the money for any minor beneficiaries.

You should also consider reading our What happens to your children if you die without making a Will? page.

If you are separated but not yet divorced the information provided in the previous married / civil partnership will apply. This is why it is crucial to make a Will or your ex husband, wife or civil partner may be able to inherit.

Whether your partner will inherit the property on your death depends upon the nature of your joint ownership. There are two ways co-owners can own a property, Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common. If you are Joint Tenants the surviving joint owner will automatically inherit your share of the property. If you are Tenants in Common the share of the deceased owner passes by their Will or intestacy. Therefore if you do not have a Will the intestacy rules apply and so your partner may not inherit your share of the property. This could result in a very difficult circumstance where your children, grandchildren, parents or other relatives listed above may inherit your share of the property whilst your partner still owns their share.

If you have a joint bank account the money will pass to the surviving joint bank account owner. Regarding all other assets, again, it will follow the intestacy rules which does not recognise unmarried couples as spouses and therefore your partner would not inherit. So it is really important to consider making a Will if you are in a relationship but are not married or in a civil partnership.

It is important to consider making a Will so that your loved ones are protected and you have peace of mind knowing how your estate will be dealt with rather than relying on a fixed set of rules to determine it after you have died.

By talking through your circumstances with an Inheritance Protection solicitor you know your estate will be left to who you want. Other factors such as the appointment of executors, guardians for your children, inheritance tax and trusts will also be considered.

If you would like to make your Will please read our Making a Will page or contact one of our team members below.

Our Inheritance Protection Team

Unsure who to contact? Make a general enquiry:

Newbury Thatcham Maidenhead
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