The majority of adults in the UK do not have a Will – a recent survey found that 58% of all adults, and 74% of all cohabiting couples, have yet to draft Wills.
Dying Without A Will
Dying without a Will, or “intestate”, can have distressing and unexpected consequences:
Under statutory intestacy rules, if you are cohabiting but not married or in a registered civil partnership, your partner would inherit nothing.
The operation of those statutory intestacy rules could force the sale of the family home:
Your spouse or civil partner would only receive up to £450,000, your personal effects and half of the balance of your estate if you die childless.
If you die leaving children your spouse or civil partner would only receive £270,000, your personal effects and half of the balance of your estate.
If you die leaving children under the age of 18 you hand the local authority the power to decide who becomes their guardian, which may force those best placed to look after your children to apply to the court to compete for the right to do so.
Your loved ones are faced with the added burden of dealing with your intestate estate during which time they would be unable to access or deal with your assets, which may give rise to immediate financial difficulties.
How Do Intestacy Rules Work?
The information below on intestacy rules applies to estates within England and Wales only. Talk to usfor further advice if you own property outside England and Wales.
Intestacy Laws in England & Wales
The rules which determine who inherits your estate if you have not made a Will date from 1925. A strict “pecking order” is established by the Intestacy Rules, which depends on factors such as:
ο Your marital status.
ο Whether you had children.
ο Your immediate family.
Once a relative or class of relatives within this “pecking order” is located, the search stops there and your entire estate is allocated to that relative or relatives.
Your spouse or civil partner will benefit if he/she survives you by 28 days, otherwise, the estate will be dealt with as if you had no spouse or civil partner.
If a class of relative existed but has died leaving children, those children will inherit equally what would have been their parent’s share “per stirpes”. However, cousins are the remotest relatives who can inherit under the laws of intestacy.
Within each class of relative, relatives of the full blood (who share the same parents with you) take preference over those of the half blood (who have only one parent in common with you).
In-laws have no rights.
Legally adopted children have the same rights as their adopted parent/s’ natural children, but lose all rights to their birth parents’ estates.
Stepchildren and foster children have no automatic rights.
Children born out of legal wedlock are recognised under intestacy law.
“Common Law” husbands/wives are not recognised under intestacy law. They have to go to Court if they wish to be allocated an inheritance.
Same-sex partners are not recognised under intestacy law unless they registered a civil partnership with you. They have to go to Court if they wish to be allocated an inheritance.
Children may only inherit directly from their 18th birthday. Before then, their inheritance will be held in trust.
How beneficiaries will inherit jointly-owned assets is dependent on how that property is held.
For married couples with no children the entire estate (after the payment of funeral expenses, tax and debts) is distributed as follows:
ο The surviving spouse gets a “statutory legacy” of the first £450,000 from the estate plus goods and all personal chattels.
ο The surviving spouse also gets half of the remainder of the estate.
ο The other half of the remainder is distributed to the deceased’s parents. If neither parent survives, the estate then goes to the deceased’s brothers and sisters and, if any of the brothers and sisters have died, to their children.
ο If none of the above are alive to inherit, the surviving spouse gets everything.
“Thank you again for helping me sort out all our Wills and the funeral plan for my godmother. I cannot believe how timely that was bearing in mind today’s situation. Only good news from her care home so far, but to know that resources are there to help the staff directly if the worst happens certainly gives me peace of mind.”
SC , May 2020
“After many years putting off writing my Will I finally entrusted Alex Truesdale with the task of compiling it for me and my family. My main wish was to pass my estate on to my son, and have guardianship put in place, should the worst happen before he came of age. Alex guided us through the difficult and emotional process with the utmost professionalism and put us at ease from the outset. She was able to address all of the issues we put to her and brought up many we had not considered regarding our estate.
“As we were about to travel abroad, we were also on a very tight schedule for the wills to be drawn up and signed. Alex went above and beyond to make sure everything was in place for us in the allotted time, even to the point of being personally on hand to instruct ourselves and our witnesses during the signing procedure.
“In using Alex Truesdale Wills, we now feel totally secure if the worst should happen our affairs are in order. We will be continuing to draw on her knowledge as and when our wills need updating in the future and are delighted to recommend her first class service.”
BW, May 2018
“Very clear explanation of what the options and implications were for us. It was also good to have someone focused on the end result we had to get to, as it’s very easy on your own to leave to another day.”
EM, September 2018
“Alex arranged an appointment for my husband and I to update our Wills in view of a change in family circumstances. She was organised, efficient and extremely sensitive to our needs. We discussed advance directives and lasting powers of attorney in-depth – things we had only considered in vague terms previously but realised how intelligent it was to sort them out early.
“I cannot fault Alex’s professionalism and caring attitude, and will be recommending her service to my friends and colleagues.”
SM, September 2019
“I have known Alex Truesdale for over 6 years, during which time she prepared Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney for my sisters and assisted us in the administration of my sister Elizabeth’s estate after her death in 2018. I testify to her attention to detail, her knowledge and experience in her work and the warmth of her communications whether by letter, by telephone or in person. She responds to us quickly and we have full confidence in what she does on our behalf and on her advice on various aspects. She has a good network of people when particular advice is needed beyond her field of expertise or training. She became a friend to us as a family. I gladly recommend her services to others.”
KH, July 2020
“The support Alex gave me and my husband after our Wills and LPAs were finalised was second to none especially as he was diagnosed with a terminal illness a few months later. This ongoing support, advice and bringing in other specialists to assist was outstanding and I felt that we were in very good hands and would continue to be when the inevitable happened.
After my husband died, the comfort of knowing all was in order with the Wills was a great relief and her help in the immediate aftermath was much appreciated. It wasn’t just the professionalism but the genuine concern for my situation and that of the family. Alex then continued to guide me through the process and through some pretty complicated issues relating to the estate administration. She always responded to my copious emails and phone calls with clarity, efficiency and care.
The whole process was dealt with in a timely manner and to a very high standard and I felt that I was being looked after like one of her own family.
I can’t recommend Alex highly enough – a very talented professional dedicated to her work with a heart of gold.”
JD, July 2020
“We would like to thank you for your professional help in getting us to a point of having signed Wills after many years of procrastination. Not only that your advice gave us the impetus to arrange a Civil Partnership and we now feel that we have got at least some of our affairs in order in these worrying times.”