Statistics show that approximately 60% of the UK population have not yet made a will with this applying to a much higher proportion of younger people. Of those aged between 18 and 34 the number not having made a will rises to 84%.
Why are the figures so high? Apathy is one reason along with a lot of younger people tending to put the item on the back burner and wait until they are older. However, apparently 25% of those aged over 55 haven’t made a will and so it is clearly a problem affecting all age groups. Another reason is the costs involved, but wills can be relatively inexpensive to make and, if the consequences of not making a will were more widely known, more people would certainly commit to doing so.
Relatives of those who die without having made a will find that the rules surrounding how the estate of the deceased is distributed are complicated and can seem unfair to many. The most important point to note is that the way money is distributed may not be in line with the wishes of the deceased. The only way they can guarantee their wishes are fulfilled is of course by making a will.
When a person dies without having left a will they are said to have died intestate and this will result in their estate being shared out according to the rules of intestacy, meaning that only close relatives will be beneficiaries. These rules are also followed for those people who have made a will which is eventually declared invalid for whatever reason. This demonstrates the importance of seeking legal advice when making a will, because if it is declared invalid it will be as if the deceased died without making one and the rules of intestacy once again are applied.
Surviving spouses or civil partners
Surviving spouses or civil partners will be able to inherit, under the rules of intestacy, if they are still married or in a civil partnership at the time of death. So divorced ex-partners will not be able to inherit but a separated spouse would be, as long as the divorce had not yet gone through.
- If there are surviving children, grandchildren or great grandchildren of the person who died, the surviving spouse or civil partner will be entitled to the first £250,000 from the estate along with all the personal property and belongings of the person who died. They will also receive a life interest in half of the remaining estate. This means that they will have the benefit of it during their lifetime and are entitled to the life interest from it but will not be able to dispose of or spend that part of the estate. The children will receive the other half of the remaining estate.
So, if a man dies with an estate worth £450,000, the spouse will receive £250,000. Of the remaining £200,000, half of that will also go, as a life interest, to the remaining spouse while the other £100,000 will go to the children.
- If there is no surviving spouse or civil partner any children will inherit the whole estate and it will be divided equally between them.
- Grandchildren and great grandchildren will not benefit from the estate unless their parent or grandparent has died before the intestate person or their parent is alive when the intestate person dies but die themselves before reaching the age of 18 without having married or entered into a civil partnership. If these are the circumstances then the grandchildren or great grandchildren will inherit equal shares of the proportion to which their parent or grandparent would have been entitled.