2018 - a fresh opportunity to do those jobs that haven’t quite made it to the top of the to-do list yet. Arguably one of the best New Year’s Resolutions anyone could make would be to update their existing Will or, if no Will exists, to have one drawn up by a solicitor. Here are some commonly-asked questions around the subject of Wills:
What if I don’t have a Will?
If you don’t have a valid Will, you die ‘intestate’. The statutory Intestacy Rules would apply to your estate and you can’t select who inherits your assets.
An intestacy may be full (you die without leaving a valid Will) or partial (a valid Will is left but doesn’t dispose of your whole estate). On a partial intestacy, the Intestacy Rules apply to the part of your estate the Will fails to dispose of.
Who would inherit my estate?
The Intestacy Rules set down a list of relatives who inherit, in the following priority order where the death occurs on or after 1st October 2014:
- Spouse or civil partner
- Brothers and sisters
- Half-brothers and half-sisters
- Uncles and aunts
- Half-uncles and half-aunts
A spouse or civil partner inherits your personal items and the first £250,000 of the estate. The remaining estate is split 50-50 between spouse / civil partner and children.
If you have a spouse or civil partner but no surviving children, your spouse or civil partner would inherit your whole estate.
If you leave no surviving spouse or civil partner, but have children, your children would inherit your whole estate. “Children” includes adopted and illegitimate children, but not step-children.
Where you leave no surviving spouse or children, your estate would pass to the highest category of relatives in the list above. If one of your children has died during your lifetime leaving children of their own, your grandchildren would inherit in their parent’s place.
Importantly, couples who live together but aren’t married have no right to inherit on an intestacy, making it all the more important to make a Will if you wish each other to benefit. They may, however, be able to make a claim against the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975. Likewise, a claim may be brought by surviving dependents that feel the implication of the Intestacy Rules hasn’t adequately provided for them.
Where the death occurred prior to 1st October 2014, the rules are slightly different and you should consult a solicitor for advice.
What if I leave no surviving relatives?
If you leave no surviving blood relatives, your estate will pass to the Crown.
Making a Will will give you peace of mind that you have control over who inherits on your death and that your wishes are sufficiently reflected. For example, you may wish for monies to pass to friends, god-children or charities and this will not occur should you die intestate.
You can contact Claire Roberts, a solicitor in our private client department on 01603 724688 or email Claire at firstname.lastname@example.org.