This is called dying intestate and simply means dying without a Will. There can be a number of reasons for intestacy. It could be that there never was a Will; after all, statistics seem to suggest that only 30% of adults in the UK actually have a Will, so this is likely.
Alternatively, what sometimes happens is that a Will has been made, but the person who died failed to tell anyone that they had a Will or did not tell anyone where the Will was kept. Therefore, although a Will was made, the individual still died intestate as the Will could not be found.
Dying without a Will can be more difficult for your family members to deal with as there are strict laws on how an estate is shared out between the surviving family. If an individual was in a relationship but not married or in a civil partnership, they would not inherit anything through the law of intestacy even if this is not what the person who dies had intended.
It is for this very reason that making a Will is so important – leaving this to chance can have a significant impact on the people you love and leave behind.
The rules of intestacy state that if the individual was married or in a civil partnership and there were no children, they stand to inherit the whole of the estate. If there were children, the surviving spouse will inherit the estate up to the value of £250,000 and if the estate is worth more than that, this additional portion will be divided. The surviving spouse will retain an absolute interest in half of any amount over £250,000 and the other half will be divided amongst the children.
It is important to understand the impact on you and the rest of the family if a loved one dies intestate. Take advice from a specialist solicitor to help clarify your particular situation.
For more information about this article or any aspect of our Wills, Probate & Trusts services and powers of attorney, please call Michelle Stopford or Charles Goodbody in our Warminster office on 01985 214444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and we will be delighted to help you (there is no charge for initial telephone discussions).