Tue. Jan 21st, 2020

What Happens If You Die Without Drafting A Legal Will?

3 min read

If you die without a legal Will in place, your money, estate and possessions are shared among your family members in accordance to the law instead of your wishes. In simple words, this could mean that your estate will be inherited by someone against your wishes, leaving the one you actually wanted to pass things on to with nothing.

We know for a fact that drafting a Will is costly and time consuming. But this certainly isn’t a prime reason for not having a Will in place. If you are unaware about how much does a Will cost, you can seek guidance from the Internet or your trusted lawyer.

However if you still think you don’t need a Will, this article articulates certain pointers that will help you understand what happens if you die without drafting a Will. It includes:

  • Why you shouldn’t die without a Will in place?
  • What is intestacy?
  • Who will inherit your estate in case you die without a Will?

Why you shouldn’t die without a Will in place?

If you die without a legal Will, the UK government gets the authority to decide who gets what and how much of your estate. In this situation, what your relationship with these people was like when you were alive does not matter.

But having a well-drafted Will makes it clear and easy for everyone to understand who receives your estate after your death. This also prevents unnecessary distress among your family and friends, as they will be dealing with a difficult time.

For instance, there have been cases where the deceased’s partner (divorced or civil partner) had to sue their own children to get a fair share of their partner’s estate. In such a situation, the law states that the children get everything.

What is ‘Intestacy’?

Dying without a legal Will in place is called intestacy or dying intestate.

The law that states how your estate will be divided is different in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, there are few common ground rules that are to be followed in case you die without drafting a legal Will.

Common Rules in Case You Die Without a Legal Will;–

  • If you are unmarried or not in a civil partnership, your partner does not have any legal authority over your estate after your death.
  • In case you are married, your spouse inherits most or all of your estate, and your children receive nothing (except in Scotland). This is true even if you are separated but not legally divorced.
  • If you have children or grandchildren, the amount of money they are legally entitled to receive is entirely dependent on where you live in the UK.
  • The inheritance tax rate that your estate is liable to pay might be higher compared to the rate applied if you have had a Will in place.
  • If you don’t have any living close relatives, your entire estate will belong to the Crown or to the UK government. This law is called ‘Bona Vacantia’.

Note: If you jointly own any assets with someone, they will not pass under the intestacy rule but will pass by survivorship to the surviving joint owner.

However, make sure you own these assets as ‘joint tenants’ and not as ‘tenants in common’ to be applicable for the rule of survivorship.

Who will inherit your estate in case you die without a Will?

The official website of the UK government has a calculator that help you calculate the exact amount your family members and friends inherit in case you die without a Will. However, the metrics vary in accordance to the rules for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The online calculator uses some legal terms that you might be unfamiliar with. For your comfort, here is a quick guide to what they mean:

  • Remoter Issue – Grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on. Basically includes your direct descendants in later generations other than your children.
  • Per Stirpes – Latin for ‘by branch’. It means that each branch of your family gets and equal share of your estate. For instance, if you had three children, each of them will receive a third of the total. But if one of your children died before you, their children would receive the parent’s share.
  • Chattels – Things that you own such as your antique furniture, cars and books
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