What Happens if you Die Without a Will?
There are many important reasons why you should have a Will in place. The absence of a Will can cause many problems that often have to be sorted by your family after you die which can often result in confusion, arguments, and stress at an already difficult time. If you die without a valid Will, your estate will be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules of England and Wales. Intestacy covers situations where there is no Will at all, however it can also be put into effect if there is a Will in place, but it has been deemed invalid for one of a number of potential reasons. These include, for example, where the Will is unsigned and dated, or was not witnessed by two independent people. A Will may also be automatically cancelled because the person married or entered into a civil partnership after the making the Will. In some situations, the Will simply cannot be found; and there is always the risk the Will is found but destroyed by someone who does not like the terms of the Will.
Intestacy can often mean your loved ones suffer financially down the line and it can put strains on family relationships at an already difficult time. It can sometimes mean your estate is passed on to a former-spouse; if you and your spouse are separated, or even if you are going through a divorce at the time of death, they may still be entitled to inherit from your estate if the Will hasn’t been updated accordingly. The intestacy rules can sometimes mean a loved one loses out altogether, for example, a step child will not have automatic rights to inherit, nor will a deceased’s live-in partner. Intestacy can also result in a spouse losing the family home to pay other beneficiaries as determined by the intestacy rules. This type of situation can arise where the family home is in the name of one spouse, as can often be the case.
Preparing for the Future
Making a Will gives you control over how your estate will be distributed after you pass away. There are many ways you can provide for your loved ones through a Will, and ensure that those you care about most have a share in your estate. You can leave gifts to specific beneficiaries, as well as donations to charitable causes. It also gives you the peace of mind in knowing that your affairs are in order, and your loved ones will be provided for after you die, all according to your wishes.
You Can Decide What Happens to Your Possessions
Your Will can specify what items should go to whom. In the absence of a Will, there is often undue stress on family members over disagreements about how to distribute the deceased’s possessions. To reduce the risk of family heirlooms being sold on so that they are equally distributed, a Will can specify who gets what, eliminating any confusion or uncertainties.
Avoid a Costly Probate Process
Having a valid Will can reduce lengthy and costly probate services for your loved ones. The absence of clear instructions of what should be done with an estate can lead to the drawn-out process of determining what is in the estate, and then working out how to distribute it.
Inheritance Tax and your Will
When a person dies and their estate is valued, if it is over the ‘nil band rate’ for inheritance tax (currently £325,000) it will be taxed at a rate of 40 per cent. With careful financial planning, you can arrange a Will in such a way that inheritance tax outgoings are minimised or even avoided altogether, ensuring you look after your loved ones by passing on your inheritance to the next generation with minimal losses to taxation.
You Decide Who Your Estate Executor Will Be
Without a Will, you can’t be in control of who deals with your estate on your death. Usually in this situation, the court will appoint an executor – normally a beneficiary and close family member or friend. It is highly recommended, however, that you appoint someone yourself that you know to be trustworthy and honest (because they will be dealing with your entire estate), as well as someone who is organised as they will be required to keep accurate accounts of your estate. Often people appoint a close family member or a close friend as executor, however, it is also quite common to appoint a professional executor such an accountant or solicitor.
You Decide Who will be Guardian for your Children
If you have children, it is highly recommended you write a Will in the event that you die before they reach maturity. Failure to appoint a guardian for your children should you die will mean that the court will appoint guardians for your children. The court does not always get it right in these cases, so it is a worthwhile consideration, and it will give you piece of mind that your family will be looked after if anything should happen.
Providing for Children & Adults with Disabilities
By writing a Will, you can provide for children or adults with disabilities if you die. For example, you may wish to set up a Trust to ensure they are cared for, or to ensure their education is paid for. For more on setting up Trusts, go to our Trust Wills page for full details.