If you have children or dependents, or you want to leave something to someone who is not an immediate relative, a will can make your wishes clear. If you die without a will in place your estate will be passed on according to the rules of intestacy.
Your will tells people:
- Who should have your money, possessions and property when you die.
- Who will be in charge of executing your estate and following the instructions in your will.
- Any wishes you have for burial or cremation.
Intestacy: What happens if there's no will
If you die without the will means that your assets are shared out according to the law, rather than your wishes.
This could mean that your estate passes to someone you didn’t intend, or that someone you want to pass something on to ends up with nothing.
Dying without a will is called ‘intestacy’. The laws of intestacy vary depending on which part of the UK you live in, but there are some common rules:
- If you are not married or in a civil partnership, your partner isn’t legally entitled to anything and your estate goes to your next of kin (this is usually your children if you have them)
- If you are married or in a civil partnership, your children may not get anything – even if you’re separated
- The amount that children and grandchildren are entitled to varies in different parts of the UK; if you make a will you can decide yourself
- If you and your spouse/civil partner are ‘joint tenants’, the surviving partner automatically inherits the whole property
- If you are ‘tenants in common’ you each own a proportion (usually half) of the property and can pass that on as you wish. A solicitor will be able to help you if you want to change the way you own your home
- If you die with no living relatives, everything you own goes to the Crown
Writing a will
When it comes to writing your will, you have three main options:
- Use a solicitor: they will be able to write you a legally watertight will that does exactly what you want it to, which is particularly important if you are likely to pay Inheritance Tax, have a complex family situation or wish to protect the interests of an individual, such as a disabled family member. Cost: £150-£300 for a single will, or £200-£400 for a couple
- Use a will writing service: cheaper than a solicitor, but they are not regulated in the same way or necessarily legally qualified. Cost: from around £75, with extra charges for things like storing your will
- Do it yourself: you can buy a template from a stationery shop or online. A DIY will kit should only be used by those whose affairs are very simple – for example you are married or in a civil partnership, have no children and want to leave everything to your spouse, although even then you may still need advice.
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Last updated: 02 June 2015