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What happens to your estate if you die without a Will?

It is estimated that around two thirds of the British public do not have a Will.  If they die without making one, they are said to be dying ‘intestate’, meaning that the Crown will decide how their estate will be divided up. 

Without a Will, the rules of intestacy apply - these legal regulations will divide your estate in a pre-determined way.  Even if you are married, in a civil-partnership or have step-children, assets may not automatically be distributed to the family members you expect to inherit them.

For example, where someone dies intestate and leaves a surviving spouse or civil partner but no children, the survivor is entitled to the statutory legacy: all the deceased’s possessions, the first £450,000 of the estate and half of whatever’s left – the rest goes to the parents or brothers and sisters if there are no parents. Where there are children, the surviving spouse or civil partner has a similar entitlement but has a £250,000 legacy and chattels and a lifetime interest in half of whatever’s left – the balance goes to the children.

Where a person dies without making suitable financial provision for someone who could reasonably expect it, whether or not there’s a will, the disinherited person can make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Writing a Will

Many people try to write their own Will, using online kits or ‘easy to follow’ guides.  However, you should always consider using a professional service as mistakes or a lack of clarity in the Will can result in your wishes being deemed invalid in law. 

You should review your Will regularly to make sure it still reflects your wishes, such as adding or removing beneficiaries if you change your mind regarding who you wish to inherit your estate. You will also need to update your Will if you get married, enter a civil-partnership or get divorced as a Will is automatically cancelled by these events.

Tom Curran, Chief Executive at Kings Court Trust said: “It is hugely important to think about how you want your estate to be distributed as it could be the difference between it being shared amongst your loved ones in line with your wishes, or a potentially divisive family argument.

It is important that people understand the benefits of planning ahead, regardless of our age or health. By ensuring that your Will is clearly and professionally written, your estate can be dealt with as smoothly as possible, reducing the likelihood of loved ones being unintentionally excluded when it comes to their inheritance.”

Kings Court Trust always recommends that individuals seek professional advice from a Will writer to ensure that the Will is clear and legally binding.  If you would like more information on appointing a professional Will writer, please visit The Institute of Professional Willwriters website at www.ipw.org.uk.