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What happens if you do not have a Will?

Sep 7, 2018

It has been reported this week that Aretha Franklin died without a Will.

While that news will have come as a surprise to many, the singer was far from alone in not having one. Many people put off making a Will. It sits on ‘to-do’ lists from year to year because it’s not high on the priority list, and/or because the idea of making post-death plans isn’t all that appetising.

The truth is that the Will-making process can be relatively straightforward. A good lawyer will guide you through it, and ensure that everything that needs to be addressed is covered. And the most important point to remember is that, if you want to be sure that the right people will inherit the right things after your death, a Will is essential.

When a person dies without having made a Will, or makes an invalid Will, their estate (their possessions, assets and liabilities) will be dealt with under the rules of intestacy. A person first needs to apply for a grant of representation (probate when there is a Will and letters of administration when there is no valid Will) in order to be able to deal with the things left behind. This can involve a difficult task of trying to value the deceased person’s estate when that estate may not have been put into any kind of manageable order.

But the most significant consequence of dying intestate is the way in which assets will be divided. The general rule is that, if the estate is worth less than £250,000 everything will pass to the deceased person’s husband, wife or civil partner. Any children of the relationship only stand to benefit if the estate is valued at more than £250,000. In that case, any amount over a quarter of a million will be shared equally between the husband/wife/civil partner and the children.

Note that in the case of an unmarried couple, the surviving partner is not entitled to anything held in the sole name of the deceased. Assets would be allocated to blood relatives of the deceased.

The idea of not having the final word on who should get what out of an estate often outweighs any reluctance to make a Will. Rightly so. While intestacy sometimes leads to the ‘correct’ outcome, it often does not. In the worst cases, people who believe that they have been unfairly excluded from the benefits of a friend or relative’s estate will challenge what has happened – with family feuds resulting. 

The answer is to put in place the right plans and provisions now. It really will prevent difficulties later on.

For further advice on your specific circumstances, contact our Private Client team today who will be happy to help.  Tel: 01264 353411, email:  wills@bsandi.co.uk or complete our no obligation, online enquiry form and someone will contact you.


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