Make a will and avoid the intestacy rules!

Many people do not realise that, if they die without a Will, the law will stipulate by applying the Intestacy Rules how their estate will be distributed.

These rules do not necessarily bring about the result you might expect. For example, a wife will not necessarily automatically inherit the whole of her husband’s estate if he dies before her (and vice versa). Rather, the law stipulates that she will receive a specific amount (known as the statutory legacy), currently £270,000 his personal effects and half of the rest of his estate. The balance (if any), would go to their children at age 18. Not necessarily the outcome he (or indeed she!) would have expected.

Even more significantly, the Intestacy Rules make no provision at all for unmarried partners, however long they may have lived together. In those circumstances, a bereaved partner would have to go to Court to secure an interest in the estate unless the people who are entitled under the Intestacy Rules agree to redirect their entitlement to that partner. Not what you need at a difficult and distressing time.

Neither do the Intestacy Rules make any provision for stepchildren, as demonstrated by a case in the press where an elderly married couple both died and it could not be established who had died first. In those circumstances, the law treats the younger spouse as having outlived the older spouse. In that case therefore the whole of the couple’s combined assets passed to the wife’s daughter and the husband’s children did not get a penny. Presumably not what he would have intended had he thought about it.

In short, making a Will can avoid all these (and other) problems.