What is ‘intestacy’?

Dying without a valid will is called intestacy or dying intestate

The law about exactly who gets what is different in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but there are some common problems wherever you live.

Common rules if you don’t make a will

  • If you are not married and not in a civil partnership, your partner is not legally entitled to anything of yours when you die.
  • If you are married, your husband or wife might not inherit all of your estate and your children might not get anything (except in Scotland).
  • If you have children or grandchildren, how much they are legally entitled to will depend on where you live in the UK
  • Any Inheritance Tax that your estate has to pay might be higher than it would be if you had made a will.
  • If you die with no living close relatives, your whole estate will belong to the Crown or to the government. This law is called bona vacantia.

Note: any assets that you own jointly with someone will not pass under the intestacy rules but will pass by survivorship to the surviving joint owner free of taxes.

But be careful, you need to own the asset as ‘joint tenants’ and not as ‘tenants in common’ for survivorship to apply.

Who will inherit if you die without a will?

You can find out exactly who will inherit your property if you die without a will by using the online calculator on the GOV.UK website. Or speak to a professional estate planner

This covers all the variations in the rules for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Your wishes and who carries them out

Your Will tells people two very important things:

  • Who should have your money, property and possessions when you die.
  • Who will be in charge of organising and distributing your estate in accordance to your Will– this or these person/persons is/are called your ‘executor/executors’.

Your will can inform your executors of other wishes you have, like instructions for your burial or cremation organ donation for example, however these are wishes and the executors are not legally bound to follow these wishes or unable to do so.

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