Dying without a Will is a fear many of us have, especially as we start to get older. In fact, it is estimated that over 60% of adults in the UK do not have a valid Will and risk dying intestate.
What is the meaning of intestate?
The term intestate refers to a person who dies without making a legal Will. An individual in this instance is known as an intestate person.
When an intestate person dies, determining the distribution of their assets then becomes the responsibility of a Probate Court. Without a valid Will, the person or people who will inherit your estate once you die may not be those that you would have chosen. This situation can cause great upset and conflict long after you have gone.
What is Probate?
The process of dealing with the estate of someone who has died is known as Probate. This generally means clearing their debts and distributing their assets in accordance with their will. If someone dies intestate a probate court will decide who will inherit their estate.
𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐝𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 without a Will?
We often see how much distress and heartache is caused when a loved one dies intestate. The implications of dying without a Will are both financial and emotional for those left behind.
Dealing with an intestate estate costs both money and time. It can take months to work out what needs to be done and can involve instructing a tracing agent to build an accurate family tree, which all takes time and costs money.
The intestacy rules outline who will receive a person’s assets if a Will was not made by the deceased, but this is not always the person or people who would have been chosen.
We were asked to take a look at a case recently, where a gentleman has passed away suddenly, and prematurely in his fifties without a Will, he had a long term partner of over twenty years but had never legally divorced from his first wife, whom he had not seen or had any contact with for nearly three decades. In this instance, when it came to Probate the estranged wife was the legal beneficiary of his estate and pension and not the girlfriend of twenty years. The gentleman’s partner was also unable to sign the death certificate, or close his bank accounts as she did not have the authority. Aside from being a logistical inconvenience, it naturally incurred a great deal of personal distress for the gentleman’s partner, whom despite being in a relationship and living together for twenty years, had no more legal right to a say in his affairs than someone off the street.
It is a common misconception that unmarried couples who live together would automatically inherit under ‘Common law’ – this is not the case.
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