If someone dies without a valid Will they are said to be intestate. The law makes
its best guess about how to pass on the inheritance - but it might not be the best
for your family.
If an individual passes away without a Will then are described as being intestate.
The passing on of their estate is then governed by the rules of intestacy. These
rules of intestacy are changed from time to time, significantly from 1st October
2014 but with a minor tweak from 6th February 2020.
The rules of intestacy are a ‘best guess’ by the lawmakers regarding how to pass
things on for the average person. But like most averages, so often it represents
a mediocre position - it might not be too bad but rarely is it perfect for anyone.
For example, without a Will:-
You inherit nothing from your partner (unless you are legally married or are legal
civil partners). ‘Common law’ spouse receives nothing.
If you are separated, your estranged spouse will still inherit
Any stepchildren do not inherit
Children inherit at age 18 - often too young to make sensible decisions with a large
If you are on a 2nd marriage - your new spouse will inherit, but then in the longer
term it is their children who will inherit and your own children inherit nothing.
If your spouse is in care when you pass away, all the inheritance might be lost on
their care fees and your children are left with virtually nothing.
And of course, without a Will nothing will go to more distant relatives, your friends
or charities that you want to support. Anyone inheriting through intestacy is free
to do what they want with the inheritance - to spend it or pass it on to whoever
they choose (which might not be to your family as you would hope it would be).
Having a Will can also help with the administration of your estate - making it easier
for the family to claim your accounts at the bank etc.
Sometimes people think that without a Will everything will go to the government -
that is not the case. As long as there is someone alive who is descended from one
of your grandparents then the government will not take your estate - but a lot of
money might be lost in having to trace relatives you had forgotten about or who you
had not seen for many years. Remember, if the person due to inherit has already
passed away then their own descendants would need to be traced - so it might involve
finding long-lost nephews, great-nieces, children of cousins, etc. All in all, there
is virtually no situation which would not benefit from some simple advice and putting
in place at least a basic Will.
You can check the current rules of intestacy. If you are having to deal with an intestacy
situation and need some advice, or perhaps you need help with tracing missing relatives,
contact us for help.