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What happens if I don’t have a Will?

Just one in three people in the UK make a Will before they die, potentially leaving their family and friends with nothing but upset and confusion when they’re gone.

A Will ensures that all your affairs are in order and that your possessions and savings are divided among the people and organisations you care about. It also means that your wishes will be carried out, allowing you to feel completely reassured.

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What happens if you don’t have one in place after you die?

The court decides

Things can become problematic and confusing when there is no Will in place, as the law steps in and decides how your estate is divided.

The court is a completely objective third party and will make its decision purely based on the law, meaning everything will be split between your family, if you have living relatives. It won’t take into consideration the state of your relationship with your kin, which can make things difficult for your loved ones and cause unnecessary upset.

In some extreme cases, people have had to sue their children to get a share of their unmarried partner’s estate - a scenario that could be very traumatic.

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rules

What are the rules when you die without a Will?

Choosing not to leave a Will is called intestacy or dying intestate, which comes with specific rules about how your possessions and savings are divided.

The law is different depending on where you live in the UK, with variations across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The common rules state:

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  • Without being married, your partner is not legally entitled to a share of your estate
  • Your children may not receive anything if you are married, as your spouse typically inherits most/all of your estate. Keep in mind that this is also the case if you are separated, but not divorced
  • How much your children and grandchildren will receive from your estate depends on where they live in the UK
  • Your estate will be subject to a higher inheritance tax bill compared to the cost if you had a Will in place
  • Without any living relatives, all of your possessions and savings could be passed to the government or the crown

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To find out exactly who would inherit your estates, check out our infographic.

When you do make a Will, it’s incredibly important to make sure everything is correct, as errors can make the document invalid.

10 Reasons to make a Will

invalid will

What happens if my Will becomes invalid?

Your Will must be free of mistakes and updated regularly to reflect any changes in your life, such as additions to the family or new marriages. You should also let your loved ones know of any major changes - such as disinheriting someone - to avoid disputes after you’re gone.

Some of the most common mistakes include:

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  • Using the wrong name when making specific bequests. For example, if one of your children is known as Alfie, but his name is Alfred on his birth certificate, it could cause problems if you use is informal moniker and could see him cut out from the Will
  • Some people try to leave joint assets - such as the family home - to loved ones, when you can’t do this. Mortgages are typically set up so that when one owner dies, their half is transferred to the living tenant
  • People can also leave money to charities or other organisations that don't legally exist, as they’ve used the wrong name. For example, using a name like ‘cancer relief’ instead of official names like Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Nurses and Stand Up to Cancer could mean your gift to them never happens

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To ensure that your Will is mistake free, it’s a good idea to get it checked over by a professional if you’re using a DIY kit or seek out their help from the start.

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