From 6th February 2020, the amount a spouse or civil partner can automatically inherit if their partner dies without leaving a will (known as the statutory legacy) rose to £270,000 – from £250,000.
What will happen to your family if you die without making a will?
However, this still means that if you die without making a will, you may leave your spouse or civil partner unable to continue to live in their home or maintain their lifestyle as your estate will be inherited according to the rules of intestacy. These rules dictate who your estate will go to and how much they will inherit and often don’t reflect what you would have wanted. For example, if you are married or in a civil partnership and you die intestate, your spouse or civil partner will inherit any property that you own as joint tenants and any money in joint bank accounts, plus:
- The whole of your estate if you have no surviving children (either birth or adopted), grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
- If you have surviving children (either birth or adopted), grandchildren or great-grandchildren, your spouse or civil partner will only inherit the first £270,000 of your estate, plus half of everything else above that and your personal possessions. Your children will inherit the rest in equal shares. This includes children from all and any relationship you may have had, but not stepchildren if you have not formally adopted them. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren will only inherit if certain criteria exist. See our intestacy page for further information.
If you die intestate and have no surviving spouse or civil partner, your children will inherit all of your estate. If you have no surviving spouse, children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, other relatives will inherit your estate in a strict order. Charities you may have wished to support, carers and friends etc., will not inherit anything if you have not made a will.
It’s important to note that if you die intestate and you are separated but have not divorced or dissolved your civil partnership, your estranged spouse or civil partner could still inherit. Also, if you have written a will, but then marry or enter into a civil partnership, your will is revoked, so, although you may think you have left your affairs in the order with your estate to be inherited as you would have wanted, the laws of intestacy will still apply.
How does intestacy affect cohabitees?
If you cohabit and you die without having made a will, your cohabiting partner will not inherit anything, apart from any money in joint accounts and jointly owned property. Children or other relatives will inherit your estate.
Anne Rogers, partner and head of Graysons’ private client department says:
“The increase is very welcome, of course, but as only around 57% of adults in the UK have made a will, a lot of families are still left vulnerable and subject to the rules of intestacy. Of course, these rules offer some protection for families, but, in my experience, they rarely match what the deceased’s actual wishes would have been. The only way to ensure that your estate is left exactly as you would wish is to make a will.”
Author: Anne Rogers, partner and head of Graysons’ private client team.