Why do I need a Will?

August 21, 2010 2:05 pm

It usually makes sense for you to make your will. Here’s why it’s a good idea:

1. You can make sure you don’t pay too much tax.

2. You control who receives your property and assets, rather than the law stepping in and deciding for you.

3. You can make sure a partner is provided for. If you’re unmarried, or in a Civil Partnership, your partner may not automatically inherit anything from you.

4. If there is no will, it will take longer and be more expensive to settle your affairs, causing unnecessary problems for loved ones.

What happens if you die without a will?
If you die without a will, you die as what is known as an ‘intestate’. There are rules which then control who receives your property.

We set out below the rules for deaths on or after 1 February 2009 in England and Wales, the law differs if you die intestate (without a will) in Scotland or Northern Ireland. The rates that applied before that date are shown in brackets.

If you’re married or in a civil partnership and there are no children
The husband, wife or civil partner won’t automatically get everything although they will receive:

  • personal items, such as household articles and cars, but nothing used for business purposes
  • £450,000 (£200,000) free of tax – or the whole estate if it was less than £450,000 (£200,000)
  • half of the rest of the estate

The other half of the rest of the estate will be shared by the following:

  • surviving parents
  • if there are no surviving parents, any brothers and sisters (who shared the same two parents as the deceased) will get a share (or their children if they died while the deceased was still alive)
  • if the deceased has none of the above, the husband, wife or registered civil partner will get everything

If you’re married or in a civil partnership and there were children
Your husband, wife or civil partner won’t automatically get everything, although they will receive:

  • personal items, such as household articles and cars, but nothing used for business purposes
  • £250,000 (£125,000) free of tax – or the whole of the estate if it was less than £250,000 (£125,000)
  • a life interest in half of the rest of the estate (on his or her death this will pass to the children)

The rest of the estate will be shared by the children.

If you are partners but aren’t married or in a civil partnership
If you aren’t married or registered civil partners, you won’t automatically get a share of your partner’s estate if they die without making a will.

If they haven’t provided for you in some other way, your only option is to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. See the section below ‘If you feel you’ve not received reasonable financial provision’.

If there is no surviving spouse/civil partner
The estate is distributed as follows:

  • to surviving children in equal shares (or to their children if they died while the deceased was still alive)
  • if there are no children, to parents (equally, if both alive)
  • if there are no surviving parents, to brothers and sisters (who shared the same two parents as the deceased), or to their children if they died while the deceased was still alive
  • if there are no brothers or sisters then to half brothers or sisters (or to their children if they died while the deceased was still alive)
  • if none of the above then to grandparents (equally if more than one)
  • if there are no grandparents to aunts and uncles (or their children if they died while the deceased was still alive)
  • if none of the above, then to half uncles or aunts (or their children if they died while the deceased was still alive)
  • to the Crown if there are none of the above