If you die without making a will (intestate), your assets will be distributed according to strict intestacy rules which set out, in order, who should inherit your estate, from spouses and civil partners, through children, grandchildren, parents and other family. You can find the full rules of intestacy on our website. If there are no surviving relatives as detailed within these rules, your estate will go to the Crown (i.e. the government) after it has been unclaimed for 12 years. It is estimated that the government earned £8 million through unclaimed estates in 2016, and in November 2018 there was approximately £2.1 billion in outstanding unclaimed estates.
Will your spouse inherit everything?
Married couples and civil partners often think they don’t need a will as “everything will go to their spouse”, but that is not necessarily true, especially if you have children. In that case, your spouse would only receive a percentage of your estate and the rest would go to your children – which may not be what you want. Getting married or entering into a civil partnership revokes any previous will, so if you want to be in control of how your estate is distributed – for instance if you want to ensure that children from a previous marriage are provided for – you will have to make a new will.
If you do have a will and are separated, but not divorced, it is important to note that your estranged spouse could still inherit your estate – which again may not be what you had wanted.
Don’t be fooled by the common law marriage myth – make a will!
If you are not married and want your partner to inherit, you will need to write a will and specify that, as unmarried partners – even if they are the other parent to your children – are not treated in the same way as spouses or civil partners – despite the common law marriage myth.
You can use your will to nominate guardians for your children if they are under 18 and you can set up trusts and trustees so that your estate can be properly managed for your children in the event of your death.
Graysons can help you make a will that reflects your wishes
Anne Rogers, head of Graysons’ private client team says “There are many issues to consider, but the key to ensuring that your estate is distributed exactly as you would want it to be is to ensure that you have a properly drafted, valid and legal will (if your will is found to be invalid, you will be treated as having died intestate). Information within it needs to be clear and unambiguous so that it is not left open to those wishing to make a claim – although it is important to note that under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975, adult children may be able to make a claim if they feel that reasonable provision has not been made for their maintenance.”
Graysons’ expert advisors will guide you through the process and make sure that your will clearly identifies your wishes, enabling your representative to distribute your estate efficiently. Making a will may not be as expensive as you think – and can certainly save money and distress caused by dying intestate. Contact us now to make a free of charge appointment in which we can discuss your wishes and offer you the best advice. You can also find out more about making a will on our web pages.