The intestacy pitfalls of not making a will

"Changing living patterns […] mean increasing numbers of people will fall through the safety net provided by our inheritance laws should they die without making a Will".(1)

The National Consumer Council has identified a very worrying 'Wills gap'. Their research revealed that those who are most at risk of not being covered by the current intestacy laws are also those most likely not to have made a Will. These include cohabitants (people living together but not married), separated or divorced couples and parents with dependent children.

If you haven't yet made a will, maybe you should read on...

It's true to say that everyone should make a will. Today's family structures are so much more diverse and complicated than our inheritance laws can possibly have accounted for. So we are all, in a sense, not covered, but making a will can simply solve this.

But what does it mean for those who die without making a will?

It could mean that the family home may have to be sold to pay claimants on your estate. It could mean that those you intended to leave money to will get nothing. It could mean that your children are looked after by someone who you may not have chosen.

If you haven't made a will, the consequences will fall hardest on those you leave behind.

It's estimated that there are over one million people in England and Wales who know of examples where at least part of the estate went to the 'wrong' person.(1) And many more know how much time, expense and stress can be caused when you're trying to deal with someone's affairs if they haven't made a Will. Sometimes it can cause irreparable damage to relationships.

Here are just some things to consider if you think our intestacy laws will cover you.

  • There is no such thing under present laws as a common-law husband or wife. Cohabitants have no automatic right to inheritance.
  • If a divorce has not been finalised, the surviving spouse may inherit the whole, or part, of the estate.
  • Where a guardian for children under the age of 18 has not been identified in a will, the courts may appoint one.
  • Expensive trusts may be set up or inheritance tax may be applied.

You can find out more about how the laws of intestacy work here, or you can stop worrying and make a Will today here.

Making a will and intestacy laws notes:

(1) National Consumer Council "Finding the Will" 2007

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Published on: June 3, 2008

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