Knowing what happens if you die without a will is important. In the UK it's fairly common with just under 50% of us not having one in place. It can make a hard time more stressful for a family. Here we go over what may happen if you die without a will, and why you might want to think about avoiding it.
If you die without a will in place, your assets are dealt with according to laws of 'intestacy'. These laws are the government's way of deciding how everything you own is split up. With most of the UK not having a will in place, these laws do come into effect quite often. You may have had experience, or at least know someone who has, of the burden this can place on a family.
In England and Wales these rules are used to define how someone’s estate is dealt with if they die without having put their wishes into a will.
Here we go through some scenarios that could occur if you're currently dealing with losing a loved one who had no will in place. You can use this government tool to check for yourself if you're still unsure.
Your surviving partner (husband, wife or civil partner) inherits everything.
Your husband, wife or civil partner will inherit assets (including property), up to £250,000, and your personal possessions, whatever their value. What is remaining will be shared as follows:
Your husband, wife or civil partner gets half of what is left. The other half is then divided equally between your children. If any children have died, then their children (your grand-children) will inherit in their place.
The estate is shared equally between the children or their descendants.
Your estate and assets are left to close relatives in the following order:
Having to go through this process can be stressful for a family, especially if the results don't reflect your wishes. In addition, it’s impersonal and takes away the chance for someone who has died to leave behind specific gifts and messages that can reflect who they were as a person.
One function of a will is that it allows someone to list all of their assets in one place. Without this list there it can be hard to track down all of your loved one’s estate. For example, if a family didn’t know about an existing financial account, it may end up not being dealt with.
It's estimated that it can cost on average £9,700 in lost assets for families dealing with an estate when there's no will. Given the number of us who don't have a will in place, or an up-to-date one this is in fact very common.
In addition to this, when there's no will it's then left to family members to organise a funeral and wake without any input from the person who has died. When someone has funeral wishes in place and it can give you peace of mind as you know that you're respecting your loved one's wishes.