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09 September 2016

If you die without a will, your money will not go to the Crown

You may be like many people and think that, if you die without a will (‘intestate’), your money goes to the Crown. This is not the case.

If you die without a will after 1 October 2014, which is likely if you are reading this, here is what happens:

  • If you have a spouse and no children, your widow(er) takes your entire estate.
  • If you have a spouse and children, your widow(er) takes the first £250,000 of your estate (including property) and your personal possessions, whatever their value.
    • Everything over £250,000 is divided as follows
      • Your widow(er) takes half and your children share the other half equally amongst them.
      • If one of your children died before you, their children (your grandchildren) inherit in their place.
  • If you do not have a spouse but have children, your children share your entire estate equally. Again, if one of your children has died before you, their children inherit in their place.
  • If you have neither a spouse nor children, your estate is distributed to your nearest relatives, who would usually be your parents. If your parents have already died, your estate is shared between your siblings. If you have no siblings, your estate passes to your half-siblings, and so on. Only if you die without living parents, siblings, half-siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, half-aunts or half-uncles does your estate go to the Crown.
  • Unmarried partners and step-children take nothing.
  • If you are separated but not formally divorced, your estate will pass on the basis that you are still married. This is probably not what you want to happen.

For deaths that occurred before 1 October 2014, the rules are somewhat more complicated.

An unmarried partner has no entitlement whatsoever under the intestacy rules and would need to apply for the court for ‘financial provision’ from the estate. It is important that unmarried couples have wills; this can avoid confusion and potential disputes between families and partners down the line.

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