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What Happens When You Die Without A Will?

Preparing for Death

If a loved one has passed away without a will, what should you do? It's a question that many will, unfortunately, have to answer. It's unfortunate because dying without a will means the process becomes much more difficult and the deceased true wishes may never be realized.

Dying without a will has many repercussions, especially if the person has left behind a significant estate. Here we will look at what happens if you pass away with no will and what steps need to be taken by your family.

Rules of intestacy

The first place to start when talking about dying without a will is the rules of intestacy. This is a set of rules that are in place that determine what should happen to an estate. There is a pre-determined list of who inherits your assets and there is little that can be done to challenge that.

The first person the estate will go to is the spouse. They will get the first £270,000 of the estate along with all personal property and possessions. This can be an issue with unmarried couples as the surviving partner won’t legally be recognized and therefore won’t receive anything from the will. There is also the possibility of a spouse being entitled to the estate even if they had separated from the deceased but were not yet divorced.

If there is no spouse or the estate is valued at over £270,000, the next persons to inherit would be the children. With a spouse, the children (including adopted children) will receive 50% of anything above that £270,000 figure, shared equally between them. This rule does not include step-children, who will be excluded.

After children, the line of potential inheritance then goes to grandchildren, great-grandchildren, parents, siblings than other close relatives. The exact people to inherit will depend on a number of different circumstances depending on the makeup of your family.

It’s important to look here at who is excluded. We’ve already mentioned step-children which can be difficult if they were treated as one of your own. It also excludes anyone no married or in a civil partnership, any in-laws, friends and carers. These are commonly included in wills but aren’t included in the rules of intestacy.

Grant of Letters of Administration

When someone dies with a will, the executor will need to apply for a grant of probate to legally be in charge of the estate. Without a will, a similar process is put into place but instead, you have to apply for a grant of letters of administration.

In a will, you can name anyone as an executor such as a close friend or your unmarried partner. Without a will, it will only be one of the beneficiaries as determined by the rules of intestacy who can apply to take charge of the estate as the executor.

Post-death, there is a lot of responsibility on the executor and without a will, this may end up falling to someone who isn’t suited to the role. They may not have the time, skills or emotional capacity to do the exhausting work and this can make the situation much more difficult.

Other consequences

Many things can be stated in a will that can otherwise be an issue without one. Here we take a look at other consequences of not having a will.

Guardianship – Without a will, you’ll have no control over who becomes the guardian of your children. This will be decided by the courts who will try to find the most suitable candidate.

Future planning – You may not be able to set up your family financially for the future, such as setting up a trust for your young children.

Possessions – All your possessions will fall into your estate. This means that they will all go the persons who inherit them under the rules of intestacy and your wishes for where they should go would never be known.

Funeral – Unless you have specifically stated it otherwise in a written document, your funeral wishes aren’t going to be known. It means you could have a service you wouldn’t want or even be buried when you wanted to be cremated, for example.

Tax benefits – Inheritance tax rules can be quite complicated and you have other considerations such as gifts, trusts, life insurance and charity. Without a will, a lot of money could end up going to the government that could otherwise have gone to your family or to charity.

Make a will today

If you’re looking at this and thinking now is the time to get a will, it may be a lot simpler than you think and you can even do it yourself. Check out our guides on how to get a will or how to write your own will in your Bequest account for free.

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