What happens to your assets if you don't leave a Will?
Death is a subject that many people fail to discuss with family and friends for obvious reasons. No-one likes to talk about their death and the consequences that brings to their loved ones, but, from a legal standpoint, it’s vital that you make a Last Will and Testament as it ensures that your assets (money, property, personal belongings, pets etc.) are passed on to the people you want them to be, and not taken by the government. What’s more, a well-drafted Will will hopefully avoid any contentious probate issues from arising between family and friends following your death.
If you die without leaving a Will, it is the law who decides who gets what from your assets, and how much. The law doesn’t take into account any relationships between family members before your death, so you could find your assets handed out between family members whom you may have fallen out with before your death. By leaving a Will with precise instructions, you are helping to prevent unnecessary distress and pain in an already difficult period. In some cases, unmarried parents have had to sue their own children to get a share of their partner’s estate; the law states that in unmarried couples, all assets are automatically transferred to their children.
Common rules in place if you die without a Will
If you fail to make a Will before your death, once you’ve died it is known as intestacy or dying intestate, which can cause a number of common issues, although some of these differ between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you are not married and die without a Will, your partner is not legally entitled to any share of your estate when you die. If you are married, your husband or wife will automatically inherit most, if not all, of your estate, and children could be left with nothing; if you’re separated but still married, this is still true, which is why a Will is vital.
Without a Will, the amount your children and grandchildren can inherit will differ depending on the region in which you live. However, with a Will, you can stipulate exactly how much they can receive. If you die without a Will, any Inheritance Tax is likely to be much higher, and if you die without any close, living relatives, the Crown or government will take control of your estate, which is called bona vacantia.
Who inherits what once you die without a Will?
England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have differing laws relating to who inherits what once you’ve passed. To find out more about this, please visit the GOV.UK website where they explain in more detail the people who are likely to inherit what following your death.
Child care, charities and funeral arrangements
In addition to the financial aspect of your estate, there are a number of other issues that will need resolving if you die without a Will. If you die with children under the legal age to live alone, a Will is very important as you can stipulate who is legally responsible for them. Without a Will, local authorities will appoint guardians on your behalf, but may not choose people who you may have chosen, which can cause serious distress to the children. Furthermore, you may wish to set up a trust for your children’s inheritance, but without a Will, your wishes are likely to be unfulfilled.
By setting up a Will, you can also stipulate that you want to leave certain assets to charitable organisations, but without one, this is again unlikely to happen. Finally, without a Will, your loved ones could be faced with a funeral bill that could cause unnecessary financial stress and hardship. By setting up a Will, you can put aside a certain amount of money for funeral costs, and you can stipulate your funeral wishes, for example, whether you want to be buried or cremated, and what songs, hymns, and readings you may want included.
If you haven’t made a Will yet, our team of experienced solicitors can help you ensure your last wishes are respected. To find out more about our Will writing services, please get in touch today on 01495 303124, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or pop into our Ebbw Vale office today.