It is estimated that around 54% of adults don't have a will. A lot of the time, people haven't got round to making a will yet, or think that they don't actually need one. So what happens if you die without a will? Your estate (money, property and possessions) will be divided in accordance with the rules of intestacy.
Will my spouse or partner inherit everything?
It is a common misconception that when someone dies, their spouse or civil partner will inherit their whole estate. That is not necessarily the case. The surviving spouse or civil partner is entitled to prior rights, which include:-
- A housing right up to a maximum value of £473,000, if key conditions are met.
- Household contents, up to a maximum value of £29,000, if key conditions are met.
- Cash of £89,000 if the deceased is not survived by children. This is reduced to £50,000 if the deceased is survived by children.
- Legal rights which entitles the survivor to a fixed share of the net moveable estate (which generally includes all assets except land and buildings). The survivor is entitled to a one-third share if the deceased was also survived by children. The survivor is entitled to a one-half share if there are no children.
Where couples cohabit, and are not married or in a civil partnership, the survivor is not entitled to anything automatically and needs to apply to the court. Please see our previous post for more information on this issue.
If my spouse/civil partner doesn't inherit, who does?
Subject to the payments the surviving spouse or civil partner is entitled to receive, the remainder of the estate (or all of the estate if there is no surviving spouse or civil partner), known as the free estate, will pass entirely to the deceased's surviving relatives. This depends on who has survived the deceased and is distributed in the following order:-
- Children and adopted children (or grandchildren if the deceased is not survived by their children).
- Parents and siblings. The free estate is divided into two halves – one half to the deceased's parents and one half to their siblings (or nieces and nephews if the deceased is not survived by their parents and/or siblings.
- The surviving spouse.
- Aunts and uncles on both the maternal and paternal sides (or cousins if the deceased is not survived by aunts and uncles).
- Grandparents, great-uncles and aunts, then very remote ancestors (great-grandparents for example).
- If there are no surviving relatives whatsoever, the Crown will take the whole estate.
How can I choose who inherits my estate?
Making a will offers protection for your loved ones and provides control and certainty around who will inherit your estate if anything happens to you. Putting a will in place can avoid additional costs and delays during the administration of your estate following death, and it allows you to make provisions that are right for you, your circumstances and your loved ones.