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What Happens If Someone Dies Without A Will?
There are two main reasons why individuals should write a Will.
One reason is to make sure that your estate is distributed how and to whom you want it to be. Many families today are not straightforward. There are often step-children, or estranged children. Only by making a Will is someone able to include certain people or, by the same token, exclude people. Leaving things to chance invariable leads to things not being distributed as the individual would have wanted.
The second reason for writing a Will is to avoid dying intestate. Dying intestate is what it is called when someone dies without a Will. In those circumstances the Law of Intestacy applies and how an estate is distributed is set out in statute. Even the appointment of executors is set out in law.
The only sure way of making absolutely sure that the estate of the deceased goes where they WANT it to is by making a Will.
One of the biggest reasons married couples give for not making a Will is the assumption that their spouse or Civil Partner will automatically inherit the estate of the deceased. But this is largely a myth. If the deceased has natural or adopted children (this does not include step-children) then if a spouse or Civil Partner dies only the first £200,000 and the personal chattels passes to the surviving spouse or Civil Partner. This amount is called the “Statutory Legacy” and went up to it’s current level on February 1st 2009. Everything over and above that is then divided in half with one half going to the children at eighteen (whether you want it to or not!) absolutely – or held in trust until that age. The other half is held in trust for the children, and the surviving spouse or Civil partner is permitted to take an income from that half whilst they are alive but is never able to take the capital. Clearly, this could mean in some circumstances that the survivor is left to struggle financially and it may even mean the surviving spouse or Civil Partner needs to sell the family home to pay the statutory amount to the children. It is highly doubtful that that is what the deceased would have intended!
For those without children the surviving spouse or Civil Partner will normally only be entitled to the first £450,000 and the personal chattels of the deceased, with the balanced again being split in half, with one half passing to deceased’s parents or, if none, their siblings and the other half passing to the surviving spouse or Civil Partner.
Importantly, no provision is made under the Law of Intestacy for charities or for step-children or others, whilst similarly children will inherit even if they are estranged or even if the deceased did not want them to.
Bridget Prentice, the Justice Minister stated in August 2008, “….[it is important] for both men and women to make arrangements for their loved ones in the event of their deaths. Married couples and civil partners should not assume that when their spouse or civil partner dies, they will automatically be entitled to everything. It is up to individuals to make sure that their wishes are respected by making a will.”
A professionally written Will by Prior Knowledge will ensure that wishes are adhered to and there will be no doubts. Spouses, Civil Partners and children can be properly provided for and your exact wishes can be met. This is especially crucial where there are complicated family arrangements such as step-children or estranged children, or where charities or friends need to be considered.
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