Making a Will is the only way to ensure that your assets are passed to those of your choosing. Those who fail to make a Will risk their assets passing through the Rules of Intestacy and whilst these Rules are in place to permit assets to pass to those related to you (see below) this may not be your desire. Generally an intestate estate (when someone dies without making a Will) will be distributed as follows:-
If you are married but have no children (or they predecease without leaving a child i.e. you don’t have grandchildren) but survived by a spouse or civil partner, your entire net wealth will pass to your spouse absolutely.
If you are survived by your spouse and children (or grandchild(ren) (but not step-children) the first £250,000 of your wealth will pass to your spouse/civil partner absolutely plus all your personal possessions whatever their value; the remainder of your estate is divided equally whereby your spouse/civil partner will have a life interest in one-half (i.e. not to the underlining capital) and the remaining half will pass to your child(ren) or grandchild(ren) as the case may be) equally absolutely. On the death of your spouse/civil partner the life interest comes to an end and that half share passes to your child(ren) absolutely.
If you and your partner have not married or registered a civil partnership and have not made a Will, they will have no automatic right to inherit from your wealth. This is the case even if the relationship is akin to a marriage or civil partnership and/or you have children together (though they may make a claim against your estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975)). In such case your wealth would pass as below:-
If you have children then they will inherit your entire estate, again step-children do not inherit.
If you do not have a child or grandchild then there is a hierarchy of persons who will inherit in order i.e. parents, siblings, half-siblings, nieces and nephews, grandparents, aunts and uncle, half aunts and uncles etc may inherit your wealth.
If you do not have any remote family then the Crown takes all.
The only way to ensure the passing of your wealth to people of your choosing is by making a Will. There are different types of Wills from simple ones to complicated Will trusts where you can protect your assets for an ultimate beneficiary but allow someone a life interest in the same. Wills are tailored to individual needs and requirements.
Please contact a member of our experienced team to talk through your questions and queries.