What happens if you die without a Will?
Dying without a valid Will is known as ‘Dying Intestate’. As you can see from the Intestacy Flowchart, the rules surrounding what happens if you die without a Will are determined by the state. You have no say in them, and neither do your family.
Like much of what happens in Estate Planning, the laws surrounding Intestacy (see Intestacy Meaning on our Glossary) are pretty archaic. They were originally drafted when ‘blended families’, step-children, and even divorce, were pretty rare. Life in 1837 just wasn’t the same as it is now.
When someone dies intestate, the flow of assets is well defined. You can see from the Intestacy Rules Flowchart (You can download a hard copy here) that the following stages come into effect;
Firstly, your Spouse gets the first £250000 of the Estate. Should you have no spouse (married or civil partnership only – Unmarried partners do not automatically inherit) this stage is omitted.
Next, if you have children, they and your spouse (if applicable) will share the excess over £250000. For example, if your Estate is worth £400000, your spouse gets the first £250000, plus half of the remainder. So, £325000 in total. Your children would share £75000 between themselves.
In the event that you do not have a married partner, and no children, your Estate passes as follows.
- FULL Brothers and Sisters
- Aunts and Uncles
- If all else fails, you could end up on a future episode of heir hunters!
Probate without a Will
Some people might read the above and think “My spouse will automatically inherit. I don’t need a Will”. They may be right about the first part. If your Estate is valued below £250000, your spouse should automatically inherit everything. But this can depend both on how your properties are owned on the Deeds. Also, without a Will, a personal representative will need to be appointed by the courts in order to transfer assets to the spouse. This is a different process to what an Executor does in a Will. This personal representative will have to apply for ‘Letters of Administration’. They must usually be a close personal relative, and the process may take some time.
With the exception of some automatic rules of property survivorship, nothing is done automatically. A court process is still required.
When someone dies intestate, problems often occur. The testator‘s wishes are never taken into account. The court decides who gets what, and a personal representative still has to be appointed.
Remove this risk by instructing a simple Will, and ensure that it is your wishes that are carried out, not the state.
Please note the figures have now been updated, and the surviving spouse gets the first £270,000