Making a will – what if you die without one?

Posted Jan 11, 2019.
With research indicating that over one in three people in the UK die without making a will, it is very important to understand what happens if you don’t have a will and the potentially huge impact this can have on your family and loved ones.

One of the main reasons to make a will is to ensure that there is adequate financial provision for dependents, as well as being able to specify who cares for them in your absence. This provision for dependents – usually your children – is often overlooked by younger people, borne out by research that shows that almost two in three parents with children under 18 do not have a suitable will in place. 

Dying intestate 

If you die without a having made a will, in legal terms you have died “intestate.” When this happens, intestacy laws will then come into effect, determining how your assets, wealth and property is distributed upon your death. This includes any bank accounts, investments, property, and any other assets you own at the time of death. There are strict rules as to who inherits should you die without a will, and in some cases this can mean that the Government will ultimately collect the lot.

Dying intestate often means that life partners may get nothing, and even a spouse may not get a significant part of your estate. Wills can also be challenged if they are drawn up by one of the main beneficiaries. Elderly parents may have asked their children to help, but if this child also inherits it could be challenged, possibly by other siblings.

Don’t take shortcuts when making your will

When it comes to wills, like most things in life, you tend to get what you pay for. With Do-it-yourself wills becoming ever-more popular and a huge amount of information just a couple of clicks away on Google, it is very easy in the absence of professional advice to end up making fundamental mistakes which ultimately can end up being just has problematic as having no will at all. Innocent and simple mistakes could prove costly in the long run, with your will being open to legal challenge or even disregarded altogether. A poorly written will could also give your relatives and dependents legal headaches that could prove extremely costly to resolve, likely to far exceed the fees charged by a solicitor to draw up your will correctly in the first place. 

As well as being properly drafted in the first place, your will should also be updated if there is any change in your circumstances, for example if you marry, divorce or have more children. It’s also important not to overlook minor lifestyle changes; for example, say you bequeath a business to one child and the remainder of their estate to their spouse. If the business is subsequently sold for cash and the will not amended, the nominated child would receive nothing - in other words, they are not automatically entitled to the financial equivalent of the gift from the estate, even if it seems clear to the layman that this was your intent.

Bequeathing assets 

Deciding who should be the beneficiary of assets that are jointly owned – which usually means your home – is also an area that needs to be properly addressed when making a will. For example, you can't simply leave "your" half of it to a child if it is owned as "joint tenants" - most mortgages are arranged on this basis, meaning that if one owner dies their half is automatically transferred the owner, regardless of what it says in a will. Another common problem involves unmarried couples, who may have cohabited for years and therefore assume that there is no need for a will as they are common law husband and wife. Unfortunately, no such term exist in estate law – and a partner can be disinherited by children, siblings, or even an uncle and aunt unless you have made adequate provision for them in a will.

In the absence of a legally binding will, in England and Wales if a person is married – or in a civil partnership – then this surviving partner receives the entire estate, but only if it is worth less than £125,00 in total – and this includes the value of any property. If your estate is more than this then the spouse will get the first £125,000 – plus a "life interest" in half of the remainder, and the rest will be shared by any children. If you are married, but don't have children, then any surviving parents or siblings may be entitled to a portion of your estate. In such cases a surviving spouse gets the first £200,000 – plus half the remaining balance – the rest going to any parent, and if they are deceased any surviving siblings instead. If you don't have a spouse then your estate will be shared between your children. If there is no spouse and no children, then the estate will go to the parents first, then any siblings, then grandparents, then uncles and aunts. If none of these relatives survive you and you haven't made a will you entire estate will go to the Crown.

Get advice from a will specialist

Bakers Solicitors offer you a complete  Will Writing service. If possible this can be done from the comfort of your own home - we listen to you, fully understand your wishes and concerns and advise you on your options during the Will Writing process. We then draft your Will checking always that it is accurate and appropriate for your needs and wishes. No two Wills are exactly the same and your Will shall be tailored for you and what you want.

We ensure that your Will is correctly signed and witnessed. We offer a safe and secure Will storage facility too.

Making your Will with Bakers Solicitors is easy, convenient, fast and rewarding. Don’t put it off any longer. Call now on (01252) 744637 and speak to Simon, our Estate Planning Manager, or email