What Happens if You Die Without a Will?

Posted: 09/11/2017

The law on how assets are managed following a person’s death (otherwise known as intestacy law) without a will can be hard to keep track of.

For instance, if there is a surviving spouse or civil partner and the deceased has no children or parents, the spouse or civil partner obtains the entire estate. If the estate is worth more than £250,000, and deceased has living children or parents, the spouse or civil partner obtains £250,000 of the estate and the rest is split between the children and parents. If the estate is worth less than £250,000, the spouse or civil partner obtains the full amount and the children obtain nothing. If there is no spouse or civil partner, the entire estate goes to the children.

You can calculate to whom inheritance is owed in a case of intestacy using this tool by gov.uk.




Intestacy Rules

The main points to remember about intestacy rules are:

  • No indirect family will inherit from the deceased; only familial relations or married relations
  • The Inheritance Act allows indirect family to make claims on the estate
  • If you have no will nor any direct family, your estate will go to the Crown
  • The intestate’s outstanding debts (if applicable) will be taken from the estate before it is shared with the inheritors

Invalid Wills

If one has an invalid will, they will be rendered intestate. The following factors will invalidate a will:

  • No witnesses (of which there must be two)
  • No proven mental capacity to make a will
  • The will is not in writing, signed by you
  • The will doesn’t begin by revoking (in writing) any prior wills
  • The witnesses do not sign the will in your presence, and you in theirs
  • You were in any way coerced when composing the will
  • You are below 18 years of age
  • The will is forged
  • You get married following the will
  • You intentionally destroy the will
  • You revoke the will in writing

What if your inheritors predecease you, but you never updated your will?

In such a case, the rules of intestacy kick in. For example, if you leave your entire estate to your two siblings, but they both die before you, your estate will be distributed amongst your surviving family members and spouse (if applicable).

How do I make a will?

Technically you may make a homemade will, but these are often invalidated by common mistakes being made or vital information being left out. It is best to seek expert help (usually a solicitor) when writing a will, so that you are taken through the process properly. This will prevent you from dying intestate. Visit The Law Society for further information with regards to will-writing.

In what circumstances must I update my will?

  • If you get married
  • If you get divorced or separated
  • In the case of any significant changes to your assets
  • In the case of any significant financial changes that may effect Inheritance Tax

How much does it cost to write a will?

The cost of writing a will depends on the method by which you compose it, and how complex your affairs are. It usually costs between £100 – £200 to write a will with a solicitor. Without a solicitor, it can cost very little, but likely complications will arise. An invalid will is as good as no will at all!

Should I get a solicitor?

The most expensive way to write a will is to use the help of a solicitor, but as we have seen, this is probably the most fails-safe practice. A solicitor will ensure that all requirements to validate a will are fulfilled, that you haven’t forgotten anyone or anything, and will protect you should any problems arise down the line. A solicitor is also vital if you have a lot of assets, or have to pay Inheritance Tax (compulsory on estates valued at £350,000 or more).


Don’t wait to put your will in order!

The best way to ensure that your assets are issued to the right people following your passing is to take the time to get a proper will in order, and ensure that it is kept up-to-date throughout your life.

Composing a will early in life may feel premature for most people, but it is the best way to safeguard your belongings upon your departure and ensure that the future is as easy for your family and friends as it can be. A will is legally valid if you are 18 or over, but composing one that young is generally considered impractical and is not widely done unless any serious health issues are imminent. The right age to write a will is not uniform; it very much depends on your assets; if you are married and/or have children and the worth of your estate. A wealthy 21 year old might have the same net worth as a wealthy 52 year old, and in which case, it might be an idea to put your affairs in order from the get-go.

Will-writing does not have to be a dire activity. Think of it as an exercise in showing your loved ones how you value them, and as a gift to them from a later you. Enlist friends and family to support you whilst writing your will, but remember not to let them influence you in your final decisions, as this could invalidate your will. Take your time, and remember that, so long as you are alive, your will can be amended. Use the process as a chance to reflect upon your life’s achievements, as well as doing some vital life-admin!


At Perfect Funeral Plans we believe you should have the best help on your side when making your final decisions. For more information on how we can support you, click here!