What happens if I die without a Will?

Having a water-tight Will in place is vital for anyone who wants their legacy to be passed on to the right people in line with their unique wishes.

In England and Wales, if a person dies without a legally-recognised Will, their estate will be passed on according to Intestacy Rules.

The ways in which assets are distributed under these laws could see key family members or beneficiaries disinherited – or could, in some cases, even see a person’s entire estate pass to the Crown.

Tim Steele, a Partner at Palmers Solicitors, explains: “Under Intestacy Rules, only married or civil partners will automatically inherit a portion of the deceased’s estate.

“In instances where the deceased was married or in a civil partnership and has no children, the entire estate will pass to the surviving spouse or civil partner. This applies regardless of whether or not there are surviving parents or siblings – and regardless of the estate’s value,” he said.

Tim pointed out that Intestacy Rules can easily leave relatives disinherited – and that important legislative changes introduced in 2014 make the rules even more confusing.

“Under recent changes, if the person who dies is married or in a civil partnership and they have children, and their estate is worth more than £250,000, the first £250,000 will go to the spouse/civil partner, whereas the remainder of the estate will be divided in half between the surviving spouse and surviving children – again disinheriting any siblings.”

However, he added that the biggest problems occur in instances where the deceased is unmarried – which can potentially see their entire estate passed to the Government’s Bona Vacantia department if they have not made a Will.

“Making a Will is quite simply the only way for individuals to ensure that their assets are passed on to the appropriate people in line with their wishes,” Tim said.

“Furthermore, having a water-tight Will can help to reduce family conflicts later down the line, and help to ensure that vulnerable family members are protected and assets are passed down in a tax-efficient way.”

Palmers Solicitors advise on all aspects of Wills and Inheritance Tax. For more information, please contact Tim Steele of our South Woodham Ferrers Private Client team at enquiries@palmerslaw.co.uk.