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What happens if I don’t make a will?

Less than half of the adult population have a valid will.

There are lots of reasons why people don’t make a will – for example, they may think they don’t have anything valuable to leave or they may believe that their loved ones will benefit anyway.

Without a will, in the event of your death, you die ‘intestate’. This means that the rules of Intestacy dictate who is entitled to sort out your estate and who is entitled to the money and property in your estate. In most cases, this is not who you would expect or hope it to be.

Under the rules of Intestacy, there is a strict order in which others may inherit , including spouse, child, parents, aunts and uncles and ultimately, the Crown. The rules may mean the estate is shared.

This can have drastic consequences for loved ones in the event of your death. Even if you have lived with your partner for 40 years without ever marrying or entering into a civil partnership, under the rules of Intestacy your partner is not entitled to deal with your estate, receive any money or property from it, or even arrange the funeral. Imagine the distress this would cause your partner.

Your partner would then be left in a position where they may have to see a solicitor to try and make a claim against the estate, on the basis that the intestacy has not made “reasonable financial provision” for them. This could potentially mean that they have to take action against your children to make such a claim.

In contrast, you may have been in multiple marriages/civil partnerships and have children from different relationships. In these circumstances, depending on the value of the estate, your spouse/civil partner may be entitled to all of your estate. This could mean that your children from a previous relationship would receive nothing from your estate. The children could similarly make a claim against your estate, causing even greater distress to your spouse/civil partner at this difficult time. 

These are just two increasingly common difficulties arising when you fail to make a valid will.

At Emsleys we will guide you through the entire process, ensuring your will is tailor made to suit your individual circumstances. There are strict procedures in signing the will to ensure it is valid, and we would therefore always recommend seeing a professional to make your will.

If you would like to discuss any of the above issues with a member of our specialist Wills & Probate team, please call 0113 201 4900 or email

Victoria Sladdin

Written by

Victoria Sladdin

Wills & Probate

Victoria qualified as a solicitor in 1992 and spent the first 14 years of her career as a Family Law solicitor. In 2006, she cross qualified in to Wills & Probate and has practised exclusively in this area since then.  Victoria is studying for her Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners...

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