In a nutshell, intestacy is the word used when a person dies without leaving a Will.
Now you might think that’s not a huge problem – particularly if you have a very simple family set up, however, it’s not particularly straightforward.
So, what are the implications of not having a Will?
From 1 October 2014, the intestacy rules changed, so we are focusing on what it means based on these rules.
If you are married or in a civil partnership, the first person to inherit will be your spouse/civil partner. They will receive all of your personal chattels – personal belongings, household goods, jewellery, antiques, paintings etc. They also receive a legacy, which is currently £250,000, plus half of your remaining estate.
But if you have children, or other descendants, then the other half of your remaining estate will go to them. If they are under 18, it will be held in a discretionary trust until they reach adulthood.
If you have no children or grandchildren then your spouse/civil partner inherits your whole estate.
Anything held in joint names – property or other assets – will automatically pass to your spouse/civil partner, and does not form part of your estate.
However, if you live with your partner, but are not married or in a civil partnership, your partner will not automatically inherit any of your estate.
If your spouse/civil partner dies before you then, upon your death, your children would automatically inherit everything.
If you don’t have any direct descendants then it is passed to your other relatives in the following order:
- Your parents
- Your siblings, or their children if they have not survived you
- Any half siblings
- Your grandparents
- Uncles or aunts
- Half uncles or aunts
- The Crown
But, there are some other important issues for you to consider, if you are putting off getting a Will, or updating yours…
If you have children under the age of 18, you need to think about who will take over as their legal guardians if something happens to both parents – you and your partner. You need to make the best decision for your children’s future, being confident that the named person/people will ensure they are brought up as you would wish. Obviously, you need to get agreement first, but then it needs to be legally recorded – in your Will.
If you would like to donate any money to charity, particularly if your immediate relatives are no longer around, that won’t happen if it isn’t in your Will.
Who is best placed to look after your estate?
Who will ensure your wishes are fulfilled, and everything is completed in accordance with your beliefs? You will need to name an executor to carry out those wishes. If you don’t have a Will, that won’t happen.
And lastly, you may have strong feelings about how you wish to be treated after you have passed away. If you wish to be cremated or buried, how you would like your funeral to be conducted etc. This may not be a big issue for you, but if it is, then you need to make sure it is recorded in your Will.
But, the biggest impact of all, is on your family and loved ones.
Leaving them to handle the implications of you not having a Will is tough. There could be family disagreements, or claims on your estate from relatives you have no relationship with. At a time when they will already be very emotional, you won’t want to cause them any additional stress.
If you would like to talk to us about having a Will, or updating an existing one, please contact us on 01344 875 310.