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No-one is obliged to make a Will.
What happens if I don't make a Will?
If a person dies without a Will then the law steps in and provides detailed rules about who gets what. As might be expected, husbands, wives, civil partners and children are first in line to inherit.
If I die will my wife/husband get everything?
No, not necessarily. A surviving spouse would receive the first £250,000 of assets. So the surviving spouse will only inherit everything if the entire estate (all property, personal items, cash and investments) of the deceased is worth less than this amount. Where an estate is worth more, then the surviving spouse will receive £250,000 worth and then half of the rest, the remaining half is shared equally between the children of the deceased.
Will my partner inherit anything if I don't have a Will?
If there is no Will a long-term partner who is not married or in a civil partnership with the deceased receives nothing at all.
What do stepchildren receive if there is no Will?
Stepchildren receive no inheritance under the rules when a step-parent dies without having made a Will.
What happens when a person dies without making a Will?
When someone dies there are assets (valuables, cash, property, investment, cars etc) which belong to that person which need to be administered (transferred to the rightful new owner). When there is a Will, it is the Executor who temporarily becomes the owner of these assets and is responsible for paying off any debts of the deceased and then transferring the remaining assets to the nominated beneficiary under the Will. Where there is no Will, of course, there is no Executor.
The rules establish, therefore, who is entitled to administer the estate and that person must make an application for “Letters of Administration” to be appointed as Administrator. Until then, no-one has legal authority to deal with the estate. When making the application the person must establish his legal right and show that there is no-one with a better claim than they have. There is a strict hierarchy as to who has the right to apply and to be appointed as Administrator.
What happens if I have no children and no surviving spouse when I die without a Will?
It starts to get complicated when a person dies without leaving a spouse or any children. The first in line would be the parents of the deceased but presuming they have died then the estate would be shared among any brothers and sisters. If any of the brothers and sisters have died but have children then their share goes to their children (the nephews and nieces of the deceased). If a person has no brothers and sisters or they have all died and there are no nephews and nieces to inherit then it goes up another generation to the grandparents and the estate is shared between the aunts and uncles of the deceased on both sides and their offspring (the cousins of the deceased, and their offspring etc).
Since most people die older rather than younger, tracing cousins’ children can be a significant task. One of the additional complications here is that until every possible line of inheritance has been identified (even if they are not specifically located) it may not be possible to distribute any of the estate since it is not known how many it has to be shared between.
Do I need a Solicitor to write my Will?
You can write a Will yourself, or somebody can write a Will for you and that person does not have to be a Solicitor. There are certain formalities which must be in place to write and execute a valid Will and there are lots of technicalities and details about interpretation which would suggest it would be a very good idea to get professional help in writing a Will even if it is considered to be a straightforward one. By engaging a Solicitor to help you, you can be certain that all your options are properly considered, the consequences of any decisions that you make in your Will are taken into account and your wishes are fully and properly expressed in a legal document. The work of the Solicitor will be protected by professional insurance and the long-term storage of the original Will will be guaranteed.
Do I need a Solicitor to administer the estate?
A person can make a personal application to the Probate Registry for either a Grant of Probate (where there is a Will) or a Grant of Letters of Administration (where there is no Will) and they can then administer the estate. Often it can be straightforward and there is no need to involve a Solicitor however the administration can require more than you might expect. There may be assets that are not easily dealt with and especially when there is no Will there are complications about who is the rightful administrator and who are the beneficiaries for which it would be particularly useful to have a Solicitor assist.
At Bell & Buxton our Martin Sissons specialises in dealing with the more complex estates and intestacy (administering estates where there is no Will) which can otherwise be quite a burden for the family members of the deceased. For more information or to book an appointment please contact Bell & Buxton on 0114 2495969.