What happens when there’s no will

We regularly ask our existing and prospect clients if they have a will in place. If the answer is “no” the conversation will no doubt lead to talk of the Intestacy Rules.

This is the law that determines how the deceased’s estate is dealt with in the absence of a will, and are not always as people expect.

For example, a married couple with children may assume that everything passes to the surviving spouse or civil partner. In fact, it would be dealt with as follows; they receive a statutory legacy of £250,000 (index linked), any personal chattels, and one half of the residue of the estate outright. 

The other half is inherited in equal shares by the children once they reach 18. If any children have already died, then their children will inherit in their parent’s place, again at 18.

For unmarried individuals with no children, the estate is distributed to relatives (there is a strict order of precedence). This may not be as intended if there is a long-term partner.

For those unmarried with no living relatives, the entire estate will go to the crown.

A will is vitally important where Intestacy Rules do not follow what an individual has in mind. You may also consider leaving decisions to nominated trustees who will allocate property in a fair and tax-efficient way, usually guided by a (non-binding) letter of wishes.

A will can also provide for grandchildren, present and future, and avoid at least one charge to IHT.

A will, once in place, should be regularly reviewed, and lodged safely so that it can be readily retrieved after your death.

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