Children left in the dark and spouses to receive £270k if their partner dies without a will

A teenage girl sat on the floor of a dark room

You may have never thought about writing a will, let alone what would happen if you were to die without one.

A new rule that’s being introduced in February 2020 might change that, with the entitlement for a surviving spouse increasing from £250,000 to £270,000 when the deceased person has passed away without a legal last will and testament in place.

The spouse or civil partner also receives all personal possessions, as well as half of whatever remains of the estate.

READ MORE: Making a will – How to write a will in the UK

The remaining half of the estate is then split between children or other direct descendants.

Intestacy rules (which determine how inheritance is distributed when somebody dies without a will) are being changed to account for inflation since the last change back in 2014.

The changes could have a significant impact on children, who will now be automatically entitled to even less inheritance if one of their parents was to die without a will – and while in most cases this can be reasonably sorted amongst loved ones, there are often cases in which the battle for inheritance can turn nasty between family members.

Do I need a will?

Having a will is the only true way of knowing how your hard-earned money, possessions and other items will be distributed in a way that you see fit. Dying without a will could leave a significant portion of your personal possessions (including your house, savings and other items) in the wrong hands.

Research by Direct Line Group in 2019 revealed that more than 12 million Brits would be willing to contest their inheritance.

As property prices continue to rise, so does the value of inheritance left behind after death, which is undoubtedly having an influence on the actions of loved ones who feel that their relationship with the deceased has not been accurately reflected in what they have (or haven’t) received.

By having an official last will and testament in place when you die, there are often fewer arguments as to who receives what. Your will can still be disputed, mostly arguing the deceased’s lack of knowledge and approval. However, the majority of these cases are unsuccessful.

Without an appropriate will, your children could be left with significantly less than what you’d like – any stepchildren you have will not be entitled to anything.

Dying intestate – What happens when you die without a will?

So, who inherits the estate when someone dies without a will?

Dying without a will (known as dying ‘intestate’) will result in all of your money, property and any other possessions being left in the hands of the law to distribute the estate accordingly.

This can cause upset, arguments, confusion and a whole lot of stress during what is inevitably an already traumatic time for your loved ones.

Solicitor firm SFE has warned that dying intestate is never the best option when it comes to ensuring your loved ones receive the inheritance that you intend to leave them. SFE’s director, James Pearce, said:

“Such a distribution of assets may not reflect your wishes and can cause controversy leading to expensive litigation and family rifts.

Whilst the rules have evolved over time - in the past the eldest son would be the automatic heir - they are no substitute for a professionally drafted will.”

Speaking of the upcoming change in intestacy ruling, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, Sarah Coles, said:

“After the change, in England and Wales, your spouse will get the first £270,000 of everything else, and half of the rest, but if you have children, the remainder is split between them.

Relying on these rules could leave your spouse with a nightmare – especially if you’re holding money you both intended to use. You could find a big chunk of it is automatically shared out between your kids instead.

READ MORE: A guide to naming life insurance beneficiaries

If you’re not married, the problems multiply if you die without a will. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been together - aside from any jointly owned property or accounts, your estate will go to your children.

'If you have no children it will pass to other family members, so if your property is in your name alone, your partner could lose their home.”

How to write a will

By far the best way to write a will is to get in touch with a specialist – at Bobatoo, we recommend contacting Wills.Services.

The team at Wills.Services will be able to talk you through the ins and outs of writing a will, ensuring that the end product is 100% personalised to you and your wishes.

Start the process today by clicking below and getting in touch with a professional, friendly advisor today. Don’t leave it too late!

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