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What happens if I die without making a Will?

Kathryn Harwood, Head of Wills and Estate Planning at Napthens looks at the implications of dying without a Will

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What happens if I die without making a Will?

“At its most basic a Will is a document which sets out who gets what when you die and if you die without having made a Will then whilst everything which you own jointly with another person which may include your home or possibly a current bank account, will pass automatically to the surviving owner.  As far as everything which is in your sole name is concerned then its distribution will be governed by what are known as the rules of intestacy.  Now the rules of intestacy were set out very many years ago by an Act of Parliament and whilst the values have changed over the years the fundamental principles remain as much as they ever were and the consequence of them is not always what you might expect.”

What is intestacy?

“So if we take a husband and wife with children then the survivor of them will be entitled to personal belongings to the first £250,000 of the estate but anything in excess of that will be divided into two equal parts.  The surviving husband or wife will be entitled to the income only but not the capital from the first part and the second part will go directly to the children.  In other words the surviving husband or wife will not necessarily receive everything and if we take a couple who have lived together but never actually married then they may have lived together for 20, 30 years or more but the survivor of them will not be entitled to anything at all under the rules of intestacy and the consequences of that can clearly be very difficult for them in terms of their financial security.  There is in fact only one sure way of guaranteeing that those who need and who you would wish to benefit from your estate actually do so and that is to make a clearly drawn and legally binding Will.”

Preston estate planning lawyer Kathryn Harwood