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A Will sets out how you want your assets to be divided after you die. It enables you to make provisions for children, spouse and loved ones. Ultimately, a Will ensures that your affairs are in order, making life easier for your loved ones during a difficult time.

What happens if I die with no will?

People assume that if they die without having a Will, then their money, savings, property and other assets will automatically go to their spouse. However, this unfortunately isn’t always the case.

The estate – including assets, wealth and personal effects of someone who doesn’t leave a Will behind is subject to the rules of intestacy. The rules regulate how an estate is shared out, and who will inherit what, according to certain conditions.

What are the rules of intestacy?

The rules of intestacy apply when a person dies without leaving a Will. If a person dies intestate, the following conditions apply:

A partner will only inherit under the rules of intestacy if they’re married to or in a legal civil partnership with the person who’s passed away. If you and your partner aren’t married, or you’re divorced or have recently ended your civil partnership, this person isn’t automatically entitled to inherit anything from your estate.  If you’re married or in a civil partnership and are informally separated or even if divorce proceedings haven’t completed, your ex-partner will still inherit as your partnership has not been legally terminated.

One of the most common problems that wills and probate solicitors come across is that couples who live together but aren’t married (“cohabitees”) don’t automatically inherit. It is widely, incorrectly, assumed that as a long-term partner or cohabitee they would be automatically entitled to inherit. Even in you’ve lived together for decades and have children together, the Intestacy Rules don’t provide for you unless you’re in a legally recognised partnership.

If an estate is worth less than £250,000 then a spouse/civil partner will inherit the entire estate. However, if the estate is worth more than £250,000, then the first £250,000 will pass automatically to the spouse/civil partner and the remaining amount will be split 50/50 between the spouse/civil partner and any children or other entitled parties. In the instance of no surviving children or any other dependants, the spouse automatically inherits the entirety of the estate.

If the deceased is widowed or divorced, then any children of the deceased inherit the whole estate. Matters can become more complicated in how the estate is distributed if there isn’t a spouse/civil partner and no children.

What happens to property under intestacy?

If a couple jointly own property and one of them dies without leaving a will, the manner in which they own the property will determine how the property passes. There are two ways in which a property can be owned:

Joint tenant; if two people own their property as joint tenants, then the surviving owner automatically inherits the deceased’s share of the property under the rules of survivorship.

Tenants in common: If two people own their property as tenants in common, the survivor isn’t entitled to automatically inherit the deceased’s share of the property. In this instance, the deceased’s share of the property will pass under the Intestacy Rules

How do I make a will?

Anyone over the age of 18 can make a will. Though no-one wishes to think about what will happen in the event of their death, forward planning helps bring comfort and reassurance to your loved ones in a time of grief and peace of mind for yourself knowing that your affairs are in order.

To discuss how you can plan for the future and speak to someone who is a qualified professional, give us a call on 0161 930 5117 or e-mail willsteam@gorvins.com.