What happens if you don’t leave a will?

If you don’t make a will, then when you die your property and assets are distributed under special rules called the rules of intestacy.  These rules were changed some years ago. The main changes were:

If you die without leaving a will and leave a wife or husband, or a civil partner, but no children, then that spouse or civil partner will inherit the whole estate.

If you leave a husband or wife, or a civil partner and surviving children, then you spouse or partner will inherit the first £250,000, and all the personal property, and half of the rest of the estate. The children then get the remaining half share above the first £250,000 on trust until they reach 18 years of age. When they reach 18 they will be able to control this money themselves, but not until then.

This limit of £250,000 is called the statutory legacy, and is increased in line with inflation every five years.

“Common law” partners, that is to say where you live with somebody as a partner – but are not married to them, or in a civil partnership with them, still have no protection under these rules. You should be sure to make a will.

Making a will makes it much more straight forward when you die for the people left behind you. You can leave instructions for you funeral and can also make any small gifts that might be important to you or to the people you leave behind you.

November is Will Aid month – where a number of local solicitors will write a will for you and instead of paying a regular fee you can pay the fee to a charity instead. The suggested donation is £95 for a basic will or £150 for ‘mirror’ wills. A mirror will is where each partner makes out essentially the same will with their partner being the beneficiary. So there has never been a better time to make a will!

Before you arrange an appointment to get your will done you need to think about who to appoint as your executor.

Executors are the people who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes and for sorting out the estate. They will have to collect together all the assets of the estate, deal with all the paperwork and pay all the debts, taxes, funeral and administration costs out of money in the estate. They will need to pay out the gifts and transfer any property to beneficiaries.

It is not necessary to appoint more than one executor although it is advisable to do so, for example, in case one of them dies. It is common to appoint two, but up to four executors can take on responsibility for administering the will after a death.

It is important to choose executors with considerable care since their job involves a great deal of work and responsibility. You should always approach anyone you are thinking of appointing as an executor to see if they will agree to take on the responsibility. If someone is appointed who is not willing to be an executor, they have a right to refuse.

Top tip: There is no need to use a solicitor or other professional as an executor.

If an executor dies, any other surviving executor(s) can deal with the estate. If there are no surviving executors, legal advice should be sought.

Top tip: It’s a good idea to pick someone who is likely to survive you for your executor, to have more than one, and review this every few years.

For more information about will aid you can go to www.willaid.org.uk

There is lots of detailed information about what you need to think about in making a will on the Citizens Advice website  www.citizensadvice.org.uk/family/death-and-wills/wills/  and if you need any more help get in touch with us.