What happens if I don’t have a Will?
If you die without a valid Will, it is called ‘intestacy’. This means that your estate will be distributed according to the set rules of intestacy.
What are the rules of intestacy?
In England and Wales, a set of rules are enforced if you die intestate and your estate will be divided according to these, with no consideration of what your intentions were. These rules are not necessarily straightforward, either.
How does inheritance work under the rules of intestacy?
- Unless you’re married or in a civil partnership, your partner is not legally entitled to anything when you die.
- If you’re married, your husband or wife may inherit most – or all – of your estate. However, your children may not receive anything. This is also the case if you’re separated but not if you’re divorced.
- In other situations, your children may inherit earlier than intended meaning the surviving spouse may be forced to sell in order to satisfy the children’s’ inheritance.
- Your inheritance tax bill might be higher than it would have been if you had made a Will.
- If you die with no living close relatives, your whole estate will belong to the Crown or the government. This law is called bona vacantia.
Do I need to update my Will?
It is recommended that you review your Will every five years or so and following any big changes in your life, such as getting married or remarried or the arrival of a child or grandchild. If you are making minor amendments to your Will, then you can add a supplement called a codicil, but never make alterations to the original document. This must be signed and witnessed in the same way as the Will. However, if you’re making substantial changes, you should cancel your Will and make a new one.
How we can help
At Prior Knowledge, we understand that the prospect of making a Will can seem daunting. However, we aim to take away the hard work and make the process as stress-free as possible. We can talk you through all of the legal jargon and ensure you are aware of all of the options that are available to you.