What happens to my money if I die without a will?

If you die without a will, your money will be distributed under the rules of intestacy. Under intestacy rules, your next of kin can inherit your money and assets according to a strict order of priority.

If you have a spouse or civil partner and children, then your spouse/ civil partner would receive the first £250,000 of your estate and personal chattels. Anything above this amount would be split as to half for the surviving spouse/ civil partner and half equally between your children. If any of your children have predeceased you, then their share may pass to any surviving children of theirs. 

If you should pass away without any surviving spouse/civil partner, children or grandchildren then your estate shall pass in accordance with the following order of priority: 

  • Parents
  • Brothers and sisters (or their children)
  • Half-brothers and sisters (or their children)
  • Grandparents
  • Uncles and aunts (or their children)
  • Half-uncles and aunts (or their children)

If you have no surviving relatives as described above, then your estate would pass to the Crown. Having a properly written will in place means your wishes are known and can be carried out after your death.

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What does ‘dying intestate’ mean?

Dying intestate means dying without a valid will. If you don’t make a will before you die (or your will is invalid), then the rules of intestacy decide who should inherit from your estate. The reasons a will can be deemed invalid include:

  • marriage
  • legal errors
  • concerns as to testamentary capacity or duress
  • issues with execution.

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What are the benefits of having a will?

The benefits of having a properly written will include:

  • You choose who inherits from your estate
  • You can choose someone to trust to administer your estate
  • Your family know what your wishes are
  • Gives the opportunity for estate and inheritance tax planning and management 
  • Makes appropriate provisions for minors or dependents 
  • Assists your estate in the event that the will is contested.

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What are letters of administration?

These are formal documents that are provided to the deceased person’s next of kin, in order for them to have the authority to wind up the deceased’s affairs, such as closing bank accounts. 

Letters of Administration function like a grant of probate, but the key difference is they are used when a person didn’t make will, and therefore has not named someone to be the executor. This situation can be problematic as it is not always obvious who should take on this role, and indeed family members often disagree on this point; it can be a cause of conflict and stress.  Often the Court becomes involved and this causes delays, additional expense – and more stress. All these are very good reasons why everyone should make a will!

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What is a grant of representation?

This is a generic term covering official documentation that proves that you have the right to manage the estate of the deceased.  If there is a named executor, they usually submit an application for grant of probate.  If there is a valid Will but the named executors are unable or unwilling to act, then letters of administration with Will annexed will need to be obtained. If there was no will, then letters of administration will need to be obtained. Letters of administration with Will annexed and letters of administration serve similar function to that of the grant of probate. Grant of representation is the phrase that covers all three phrases. 

The document itself, and sometimes the process of getting it from the Court and using it to administer the estate, can often be referred to as probate.

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What is probate?

When someone dies, probate is the process of managing and passing on their property, money and other assets to others, once any debts, taxes and other costs have been paid. If the deceased person made a will, they will have named someone to carry out these tasks. That person is known as the Will's executor.

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Is my will valid in another country?

If you have assets in another country, it is always advisable to take specialist legal advice about your will. If you make a will in England or Wales, it may be able to cover your foreign assets – but specialist legal advice will provide certainty. 

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What is the ‘national will register’?

The National Will Register is an official register of wills in the UK. It is approved by the Law Society and used by many solicitor firms. If your will is registered, solicitors can easily find it after your death.

Do I need to register my will?

No – it’s not compulsory to register your will on the National Will Register. However, if you register your will it can make it easier for your family to know what your wishes are after your death.

What are the requirements for a valid will?

In order to be valid, a will should be:

  • Made by a person over the age of 18
  • Made in writing; the will can be handwritten or typed
  • Made by a person with mental capacity, who understands what they are doing
  • Made voluntarily and without pressure
  • Signed by the person making the will, with two witnesses present
  • Signed by two witnesses, in the presence of the person making the will, after they have signed the will themselves.

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