Where there's not a Will is there a way?June 30, 2017
Many people don’t plan for what will happen after they die and often assume their possessions will automatically pass to their loved ones. If you die without leaving a Will, the law dictates what should happen to your money, property and belongings (known as your estate) which may not accord with your wishes.
What is a Will and why do I need one?
A Will is a legal document that sets out what happens to your estate after your die. It is essential in order to:
a) Ensure that the people you wish to inherit from your estate do so.
b) Save your family or friends unnecessary stress during what is already a difficult time.
c) Make provisions for specific items, such as a family heirloom, to be kept within the family to be passed on from generation to generation
d) Reduce the amount of inheritance tax that may be payable on any money or property you leave behind
e) To choose and guide your executors, being those people who will manage your estate, through the process of probate, in accordance with your wishes
Without a Will, the process is much more complex and can be very time consuming not to mention more costly.
A poorly drafted Will can also lead to serious legal consequences, for example, the Will could be deemed invalid. This could mean that either a person’s previous Will would apply, or, where there is no previous Will, the estate would be distributed under a statutory set of rules called the ‘Intestacy Rules’ (see below).
It is therefore vital that you seek specialist legal advice when considering reviewing or creating a Will to ensure it is legally valid and reflects exactly what you intend to happen to your possessions when you are gone.
If you already have a Will, it is important that it is reviewed regularly. As it may need to be updated following any change in personal circumstances; for example, a will is normally revoked when you marry or form a civil partnership.
What does ‘Intestacy’ mean?
An individual dies ‘intestate’ if he or she has either: -
1) Not left a Will at all;
2) Has left an invalid Will; or
3) Has not disposed of his/her entire estate by Will.
When someone dies intestate, the intestacy rules apply and your estate is distributed to the following people in a rigid order: spouses or civil partners, children/grandchildren, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
It is important to note that the law currently does not make provisions for co-habitees who are not married or in a civil partnership. If you live with your partner and die without leaving a Will, your partner will not automatically inherit any of your estate.