It is a well known fact that over half of the adult population do not have an up to date valid will. Do you?
There are many reasons why you should make a will, and if you already have one why it should be updated. It is a document which sets out your wishes following your death and it is wrong to think that it is only necessary if your estate is substantial.
What happens if you die without a will?
If you do not have a valid will you will be known as dying “intestate” and your estate will be frozen until appropriate documents have been obtained to authorise your relatives to deal with your estate. Your estate will be divided in accordance with the rules of intestacy which are set out in the Administration of Estates Act 1925.
Don’t assume your spouse or partner will automatically inherit your assets…
You should not assume that your spouse or civil partner will automatically inherit all your assets. As from 1 February 2009, under the rules of intestacy if you have children, your spouse or civil partner is only absolutely entitled to the first £250,000.00, the statutory legacy, and a life interest in half the remainder. If there are no children the entitlement increases to £450,000.00. It the estate is worth more than the statutory legacy the position is more complex.
What happens if you are married with children and die intestate?
If you die intestate, are married with children and your estate is worth more than £250,000.00, your spouse would, as stated above, receive £250,000.00 and a life interest in half the remainder. On the death of the spouse or civil partner this would pass directly to the children. The children would receive the remainder of the estate when they reach the age of 18, however if any of your children predecease you then their share would be distributed amongst their own children (your grandchildren).
What happens if you are married without children and die intestate?
If you die intestate and are married without children then your spouse or civil partner is entitled to receive a statutory legacy of £450,000.00 plus half of the remainder of your estate. The other half would be distributed amongst other members of the deceased’s family in accordance with a strict order of preference. This order is as follows: parents, brothers and sisters or their children, half brothers and sisters or their children, grandparents, uncles or aunts or their children, half uncles and aunts or their children. Only if there are none of these will the surviving spouse or civil partner receive everything.
You will see therefore that it is wise to have a will to ensure that your estate will be distributed in accordance with your wishes. If you are a married couple it is necessary for you to have a will each.
What happens if you are not married and die intestate?
If you are unmarried and living with a long term partner – unless you have a will your partner will not be entitled to anything from your estate unless you have a will to ensure that they do. There is no such thing as a “common law spouse”. If you have children between you then the children would share in the deceased’s estate. If you do not have children between you then the deceased’s estate would be shared amongst the surviving relatives in the order as detailed above. The intestacy rules do not allow step children to inherit – only natural (including illegitimate) and adopted children.
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