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What happens if you don’t make a Will?

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Failing to make a Will can cause problems for those left behind, as well as meaning that your choice of beneficiaries could miss out on the inheritance you would have liked them to have. We take a look at some of the difficulties that might arise when someone dies without leaving a Will.

At Rollits, we can work with you to ensure that you have a valid Will that accurately reflects your wishes and that protects your assets for the next generation. We can advise on a wide range of issues, including providing for loved ones in complex and non-traditional family situations and structuring your estate in the most tax-efficient way possible.

Making a Will not only provides you with the peace of mind of knowing that your estate will be passed on in the way that you want, it will also give those close to you the reassurance of knowing what your wishes were, when the time comes.

What happens if you don’t have a Will?

Dying without a Will is known as dying intestate and the Rules of Intestacy will apply. These set out how your estate will be distributed. This can make matters difficult for your family as they may wonder if this is what you would actually have wanted. They will also have to consider issues such as who will take charge of your affairs at what will be a very difficult time.

Who will inherit if you don’t have a Will?

The Rules of Intestacy state that if someone does not leave a Will, then their spouse will inherit the first £322,000 of their estate as well as all their personal possessions. If they have children, then the remainder of the estate is divided in half. Their spouse will have one half and their children will share the other half equally between them. This can mean that your children might receive substantially less than you would like them to have.

If you do not have children, then your spouse would inherit everything. If you do not have a spouse or children, then the following relatives would be entitled to your estate, in order of priority:

  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Siblings’ children
  • Grandparents
  • Aunts and uncles

Who could miss out if you don’t have a Will?

The Rules of Intestacy do not make any provision for cohabiting partners or for stepchildren. It may be open to those whom the deceased supported to make a legal claim against the estate for reasonable financial provision, but this can be expensive, delay the estate administration and cause friction in families and is best avoided if possible.

What is sideways disinheritance?

Sideways disinheritance refers to the way in which an estate can bypass children if steps are not taken to protect the assets that you want to pass on to them.

By way of example, if you had children from a former relationship and you were to remarry, then any existing Will would automatically become invalid. If you were to die without a Will, then the first £270,000 of your estate, all of your personal possessions and half of the remainder of your estate would pass to your new spouse.

If you owned a property with your new spouse as joint tenants, your spouse would also automatically own all of that. It would then be open to them to leave everything that they had inherited from you to their choice of beneficiary. Your children would not necessarily receive anything from them, meaning everything your spouse inherited from you could be passed out of your family.

If your new spouse were to die without a Will, then their estate would pass to any children they had, with nothing going to stepchildren.

Who would administer your estate if you don’t have a Will?

If you do not make a Will, then your loved ones will need to decide who is going to take charge of administering your estate when the time comes. It will usually be someone who is entitled to inherit under the Rules of Intestacy, but there is scope for disagreement if you have not specifically appointed one or more executors.

Can you get a Grant of Probate if there is no Will?

If you have not made a Will appointing an executor, then it is not possible for anyone to apply for a Grant of Probate. Instead, someone with the authority to deal with the estate can apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Letters of Administration appointing them as the estate administrator. Letters of Administration will give them the authority they need to wind up your affairs and distribute your estate to the beneficiaries.

Who would take responsibility for children if their parent did not leave a Will?

In the unfortunate circumstances that a child is aged under 18 and both parents are deceased, it would be up to the court to decide who will care for them if their parents have not left a Will. This might not be the best choice of guardian or the person that you would have selected, so it is strongly advisable to use a Will to appoint the guardians that you want to take on the role.

What age would children inherit if their parent did not leave a Will?

Without a Will, children will inherit their share of an estate once they reach the age of 18. If you make a Will, you can choose the right age, which might be when they are older, such as 21 or 25.

What are the benefits of having a Will?

There are many benefits to making a Will, including:

  • Choosing who you want to inherit your estate
  • Appointing your choice of executor, trustee and guardian, where needed
  • Structuring your estate in the best way for your family and taking into account tax and other liabilities
  • Protecting your assets for the next generation against issues such as sideways disinheritance
  • Choosing the age at which beneficiaries will inherit
  • Giving your loved ones the reassurance of knowing what your wishes were
  • Reducing the risk of a dispute arising among family members

Find out more about what happens if you don't make a Will and the services we offer.

Get in touch with our Wills solicitors today

To speak to our solicitors for making a Will about your needs and to ask any questions you may have, please feel free to give us a ring. From our offices in both Hull and York, we support clients in the region and the North, as well as across the rest of the UK.

Call us in Hull on 01482 323239 or in York on  01904 625790. Alternatively, you can fill in our contact form and one of our lawyers will get back to you.

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.
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