What happens if you pass away without a will?

Many people never think of such a serious question yet, it’s not a bad one to ask.  Why? Because there are certain laws and protocols that automatically come into play when someone passes away without a Will stipulating what they would like to happen to their assets and possessions.

When a person dies and they have not written a will or the current will is not valid, their estate must be shared out according to certain rules. These are known the rules of intestacy. A person who dies without leaving a will is called an intestate person.

The rules of intestacy state that only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit. If someone makes a will but it is not legally valid, the rules of intestacy decide how the estate will be distributed. For more information about Will Writing, see Future Legal Services

Married or civil partners inherit under the rules of intestacy only if they are legally married or in a civil partnership at the time of death. If you are divorced or your civil partnership has been legally ended, you can’t inherit under the rules of intestacy. However, partners who separated informally can still inherit under the rules of intestacy.

If there are surviving children, grandchildren or great grandchildren of the person who died and the estate is valued at more than £250,000, the partner will inherit all the personal property and belongings of the person who has died, the first £250,000 of the estate, and half of the remaining estate.

For example…

Mary was in a civil partnership with John and they adopted a daughter called Jane. Mary dies without a will leaving £450,000. After John inherits his share of £250,000, the estate that is left is worth £200,000 and John is entitled to half of that.

If there are no surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, the partner will inherit all the personal property and belongings of the person who has died and the whole of the estate with interest from the date of death.

If married or civil partners jointly own their home and were beneficial joint tenants at the time of the death, when the first partner dies, the surviving partner will automatically inherit the other partner’s share of the property. However, if the partners are tenants in common, the surviving partner does not automatically inherit the other person’s share.

For example…

Alan and Hilda are married and own their house jointly as beneficial joint tenants. They have a child called Robin. Alan dies intestate leaving the jointly owned house worth £300,000, and £50,000 in shares in his own name. The house goes automatically to Hilda. This leaves an estate of £50,000, which also goes to Hilda, as it is worth less than £250,000. Robin does not inherit anything.

If Alan had owned the house in his name alone, his estate would have been worth £350,000. It would be shared out according to the rules of intestacy, that is, Hilda would get the first £250,000. This leaves an estate of £100,000. Hilda would get £50,000 and Robin would get the remaining £50,000.

It is important to have a will whether you are young or old, whether you consider yourself to have many possessions or not in order to have your wishes honoured at the time of your death.

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