what happens if you die without a will

What Happens if You Die Without a Will?

You might be wondering what happens if you die without a will. Unfortunately, many people don’t think about this until it is too late.

If you die without a will in the UK, your estate (money, personal property, and personal possessions) will be divided according to the intestacy rules. That’s one of the reasons that professional will writing services are so incredibly important in the UK.

The intestacy rules can lead to some unwanted results and make the process of sorting out your estate a complicated and stressful one, so it is important to understand what these rules are and how they could impact your family members.

We take a look at what to expect if you die without a will:

  • What is Intestacy?
  • Who is the Next of Kin When Someone Dies Without a Will?
  • What is Probate?
  • Who Will Handle the Deceased’s Estate if There is No Will?
  • Why are Wills and Estate Planning Important?

What is Intestacy?

Dying without a will is referred to as dying intestate, whereby the deceased’s assets will be distributed according to intestacy rules.

In dying intestate, your estate will be divided between your spouse/civil partner and any children you have.

Alternatively, your estate will be divided between your parents, grandparents, or other relatives if you have no children, spouse or you aren’t part of a civil partnership.

The problem with intestacy rules is that it can result in your estate being distributed in a way that you may not have intended. For example, if you are married but have children from a previous relationship, your spouse may not inherit anything if you die intestate.

For this reason, it is important to make a will to ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes.

Who is the Next of Kin When Someone Dies Without a Will?

You might be surprised to hear that there are no set laws in place that establish a legal order of next of kin in the UK.

But there is an order of priority of immediate family that is broadly followed by most people, which is as follows:

  • Surviving partner
  • Children
  • Surviving parents
  • Siblings (brothers and sisters)

Other family members include your uncles and aunts (or their descendants), grandparents, grandchildren, half uncles and half aunts, as well as half siblings. The current legal system isn’t particularly well set up for complex family relationships – another great reason why so many people choose to take advantage of will writing services.

If you have a spouse and any surviving children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren, then your spouse will automatically inherit the first £270,000 of your estate, plus half the remainder over that amount. Your children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren will then inherit the remaining estate.

However, if you don’t have a spouse or registered civil partner, your children will inherit your entire estate. Similarly, if you don’t have any children, your parents will inherit your estate.

It’s important to note though that if you want to leave your entire estate to someone who isn’t close family (such as close friends or charity), you’ll need to make a will to ensure they inherit your estate.

Ultimately, making a will is the only way to make sure that your entire estate is distributed according to your wishes.

If you die without doing so, the law decides who gets what – and that may not be who you would want to inherit your hard-earned assets.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of dealing with someone’s estate after they die. The first step of probate is valuing the estate, which involves working out how much money and property the person had when they died.

Once the estate has been valued, any debts then need to be paid off. This includes things like mortgage payments, credit card debts and utility bills.

Any money that is left over after debts have been paid is known as the ‘net estate,’ which is distributed according to intestacy rules.

Who Will Handle the Deceased’s Estate if There is No Will?

Under intestacy law, a person’s estate will be handled by their next of kin if there is no will. This is typically the spouse, but can also be a child, parent, or other relative.

The court will appoint them as an executor or personal representative to ensure that all debts are paid and assets are distributed according to intestacy rules.

The executor will first pay off any debts and taxes owed by the estate. They will then distribute the remaining assets to the next of kin. If there is more than one child or heir, they will share the assets equally, but the assets will go to the state if there are no surviving relatives.

It is always best to have a will in place so that you can choose who will handle your estate and how your assets will be distributed. Without a will, the court will decide these things for you.

Why are Wills and Estate Planning Important?

A valid will is important because it allows you to plan for your death and ensure that your belongings are distributed as you wish – whether that is to your surviving spouse or to other close relatives. Without a will, the distribution of assets can be complicated and may not reflect your wishes.

Estate planning is also important because it allows family members and loved ones to be taken care of financially when someone dies. For example, if someone has young children or adopted children, they may want to set up a trust fund to provide for their future education or care.

Creating a will and estate plan can be complex, but it is worth the effort in the long run to make sure that your wishes are carried out after you die.

Expert Will Writing: Legacy Wills and Probate

At Legacy Wills and Probate, we understand that writing a will is an important decision. We offer a range of will writing services to suit your estate planning needs and requirements, with our experienced team helping you to create a legally binding will.

We can also provide advice on inheritance tax planning, trusts, and estate administration to help you make the most of your assets and ensure that the deceased’s children, surviving spouse and other loved ones are provided for in the event of their death.

For more information on our will writing services, please do not hesitate to contact us today.


What do you do When a Parent Dies Without a Will?

If your parent dies without a will, there are a few things you’ll need to do to settle their estate.

First, you’ll need to obtain a grant of letters of administration from the court. This will give you the legal authority to deal with your parent’s assets.

Once you have the grant of letters of administration, you’ll then need to gather up all your parent’s assets and debts and pay off any debts they may have.

What if There is no Beneficiary on a Bank Account?

If there is no beneficiary on a bank account when someone dies, the money in the account will go to the estate. The executor of the estate will then distribute the funds according to the terms of the will.

Can you Take Money out of Bank Accounts After Someone Dies?

If there is money in the bank accounts of a deceased person, you may be able to take it out if you are the surviving spouse. However, this will depend on the terms of each account and whether they are in joint ownership.

If an account is in joint ownership, then generally speaking, the surviving owner will be able to take out all the money, but if the account is not in joint ownership, then it may be more difficult to take out money from that account.

You should speak to your bank or financial institution to find out more about their specific policies.

Do Banks Freeze Accounts After Death?

It is not uncommon for banks to freeze accounts when someone dies. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but usually it occurs when the bank account is solely titled in the name of the person who has died, or if the bank needs to investigate the account to make sure that there is no fraudulent activity going on.

If you are the executor of a will, then you will need to deal with the bank to get access to the account. This can be a difficult and time-consuming process, so it is important to be prepared.

What Debts are Forgiven at Death?

At death, most debts are forgiven. This includes credit card debt, medical debt, and other unsecured debts. Secured debts, such as mortgages and car loans, are not forgiven at death and must be paid by the estate.

The same applies if there are debts that are in joint names with another person; the surviving co-debtor is still responsible for the debt.

How Do I Pay Inheritance Tax?

If you need your inheritance immediately, paying your inheritance tax is the most important step you’ll need to take. Here at Legacy Wills and Probate, we can provide a complete service related to resolving inheritance tax as part of probate. If your family estate isn’t that complex, you can also call the inheritance tax helpline for advice and support.