Help! – What happens if I die without a Will?

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What happens to your property and assets if you die without making a will?

Many people often don’t consider the consequences of what happens to their estate if they die without making a will. This is an important consideration, because if you do not make a Will your estate will be distributed in accordance with rules of intestate succession. This means that the people you want to inherit your estate may not do so.


The Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act 2014 (IPTA 2014) came into force on 1 October 2014, and updated the statutory provisions.  The main changes give better rights for surviving spouses/civil partners, and there are new rights for unmarried fathers should their children die intestate. Anyone who dies without a Will after 1st October 2014 will be subject to the new rules.


The rules for spouses and civil partners who die without children?

The new rules set out that the whole estate, regardless of its value, will pass to the surviving spouse/civil partner. Previously, anything over the statutory limit (known as the statutory legacy) of £450k was shared equally between the surviving spouse/civil partner and other relatives.


The rules for spouse/civil partner who leave children?

If the value of the estate is less than £250,000, the whole estate passes to the surviving spouse/civil partner. If the value of the estate is more than this, the first £250,000 passes to the surviving spouse/civil partner and the remainder is divided into two equal parts. The spouse receives one part, and the other part is divided between the children.

Previously, the surviving spouse/civil partner was only entitled to receive the income from their one half share over and above the £250,000 during his/her lifetime. The capital would then pass to the children on death.


New rights for unmarried fathers

Before the new Act, when a child died intestate, the father would only receive any entitlement if he was married to the mother. If he was not, then the child’s estate was to be distributed as if the child’s father and his family died before the child.

Under the new rule the father will inherit if his name appears on the birth certificate of the child.


Statutory legacies are now index-linked

The statutory legacies of £250,000 and £450,000 for spouse/civil partners was introduced in 2009.  Before this, the legacies were £125,000 and £250,000 respectively, and remained at this level for some 16 years!  The statutory legacies are now indexed linked and will increase at least every 5 years.


Do all of these changes to the intestacy rules mean it is not going to be worth making a will?

Definitely not!  Not only does a professionally drafted will leave your estate to those who you want to inherit, but can also include instructions about any specific funeral arrangements that you would like.  Not leaving a will may also leave your family in difficulty, both financially and emotionally.


So how can we can help?

  • Put off at the thought of it: we offer a straightforward straight talking process, empowering clients to make informed and conscious choices for their and their families futures
  • Costs : low compared to the financial and emotional cost of a dispute or claim and in the context of the value of a typical property,
  • DIY : we can often spot an opportunity for beneficial legal planning for the future such as Powers of Attorney, Planning for Future Care and Funding and clients learn from others mistakes with DIY wills that we’ve had to help sort out


If you would like to make a will we will be pleased to provide you with independent tailored advice from our specialist wills writer, Jo Edwards.


The information contained in this article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be legal advice. Professional advice should always be taken on the application of the law in any particular situation