Dying Without a Will
There are very few people who take pleasure from planning for their own death, however if you die without leaving a valid will you will be described as having died intestate and that means that your estate; i.e. everything that you own, will be divided according to the rules of intestacy.
What Is a Will?
A will is a legal document that describes how you wish for your assets to be distributed after your death. In order to ensure that your will is legally valid, certain criteria must be fulfilled:
- You must be over 18 years old
- It must be made voluntarily
- You must be of sound mind
- It must be made in writing
- It must be signed by you in the presence of 2 witnesses who are both over 18 years old
- It must be signed by the 2 witnesses in your presence
(It is worth knowing that you cannot leave anything in your will to any of the witnesses who sign your will, or any married partner of those witnesses.)
Leaving a valid will doesn’t have to take a long time or a great deal of effort, but it will save your loved ones a lot of unnecessary administration and complications after your death. It gives you the opportunity to clearly state who should receive your money and or property after your death, and this alone could make life easier for those already mourning your loss and prevent arguments and further distress for all of those involved.
If you die without having made a legally valid will, your estate will be divided according to the laws of intestacy, no matter how you wanted your money and belongings to be divided. You might have been living with a partner for many years but if you are not legally married or in a civil partnership, they could get nothing upon your death. It could also mean that any Inheritance Tax that your estate has to pay might be higher than if you had made a will. If you die without leaving any eligible relatives, it’s quite possible that your entire estate could be given to the Crown.
There are variations in Intestacy laws between England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but in order to ensure your estate is divided the way you wish for it to be, you must make a valid and legal will.