When you consider some of the consequences of dying without a will it is, perhaps, a surprising statistic. Making a will can be quick, easy and relatively inexpensive and the benefits of doing so are clear.
What Happens If I Die Without Making a Will?
If you die without a will you are described as “intestate.” Special rules apply for the distribution of the estate of someone who dies intestate and these may not necessarily reflect the deceased’s intention. For instance, many people over the age of fifty live with a partner. On intestacy, the partner will inherit nothing unless the relationship was one of marriage or civil partnership. This is the case even if the parties to the relationship had lived together for many years and had had children together. Instead of passing to the partner, the estate would first be divided amongst the deceased’s surviving children. If there are no surviving children, the rules provide for the estate to be passed down through a line of other surviving relatives.
If you are married, there is a limit on the amount that your spouse will inherit. If you have a large estate, your spouse may have to share it with your children or other relatives.
Many over 50s are in second relationships and have taken on the responsibility for raising step-children. However, step-children are not entitled to any provision from the estate of a step-parent who dies intestate.
Worse still, if you have no relatives who are entitled to inherit under the rules of intestacy, the estate will go to the Crown!
Therefore, the main disadvantage of not making a will is that the control over who inherits from your estate is lost completely, with a set of arbitrary rules determining whether and if so, how much, your nearest and dearest benefit from your estate.
An additional consequence of dying without a will is that if you have a large estate, there are likely to be adverse tax consequences, with much of your hard earned capital being swallowed up by inheritance taxes.
The Benefits of Making a Will
The first and most obvious advantage of making a will is that it allows you to control what happens to your estate when you die. You can make the provision that you want rather than what is laid down in the rules of intestacy, which do not always produce a fair distribution of an estate. ·
When you make a will, you appoint an executor or executors to deal with the administration of your estate. This could be a family member, a friend or a professional. If you die without making a will, the rules of intestacy will determine who is to administer the estate for you. ·
Making a will enables you to plan carefully for the inheritance tax consequences of the division of your estate amongst its beneficiaries. A significant amount can be saved by tax planning. ·
Making a will reflects modern society in a way that the rules of intestacy do not. It allows you to make proper provision for your unmarried partner, your step-children and other members of your second family to ensure that they are all provided for in way that reflects their importance in your life.
Suffering a bereavement is never easy but it can be made even more difficult if it creates the type of difficulty described above. The advantages of making a will are obvious whilst it is difficult to think of any real disadvantages. Making a will really does make sense.