The Devastating Consequences Of Not Writing A Will Before You Die

Most people are aware of how important it is to have a last will and testament.

However, a surprisingly high number of people in the UK still don’t have one.

A 2016 survey found that almost 60% of people in the UK did not have a written will and would be relying on the UK government’s intestacy rules to distribute their assets.

Relying on the government to distribute your assets is clearly a mistake, as they will have no understanding of your final wishes.

This can lead to some devastating consequences that affect your legacy and cause conflict between your loved ones.

What are intestacy rules?

If a person dies without leaving a will, the government uses a set of rules to determine where their assets go, called the “rules of intestacy”.

Only married partners, civil partners, and certain family members can inherit assets under these rules.

The rules of intestacy will also be applied if your will is not considered valid.

Married and civil partners must still be in a relationship with the deceased at the time of death to inherit any assets.

Cohabiting partners (common-law partners) cannot inherit assets under intestacy rules.

Other people who will never inherit under intestacy rules include:

  • Unmarried partners
  • Lesbian or gay partners not in a civil partnership
  • Relations by marriage
  • Close friends
  • Carers

Even if these individuals are very close to the deceased, they will still receive nothing under the rules of intestacy.

If there are no surviving relatives who can inherit under the rules of intestacy, the estate will be given to the Crown under a rule called bona vacantia.

You can visit this link to learn more about the rules of intestacy.

The negative consequences of not having a will

There are many different negative consequences that may occur if you do not have a will and intestacy rules are applied to your estate, including:

Potential conflict between family members

If you don’t have a will in place, the government will decide which family members are eligible for a share of your assets.

This can lead to some of your relatives not receiving a share of your assets, even if they were very close to you and helped you financially during your life.

There may also be squabbling about who should receive specific items that are particularly valuable or which have emotional significance for certain members of the family.

These squabbles are exacerbated by the grief that everyone is feeling and may lead to lifelong grudges between family members.

Your partner could lose their home

If you haven’t married your partner or entered into a civil partnership, they will not be eligible for a share of your estate.

This is the case even if they have been sharing a home with your partner.

Your estate will go directly to your children or to another relative in the family — forcing your partner to leave the comfort of the home they have enjoyed for many years.

You may lose control of who looks after your children

Writing a will isn’t just about deciding where your assets go.

It can also be used to nominate a guardian who will look after your children in the event of your death.

You can also outline any financial arrangements that should be in place to help the guardian raise your children.

If you fail to make these arrangements, your children may end up living with an unpleasant family member or, in the worst case scenario, being placed in foster care.

There might also be lengthy court cases involved, where relatives fight over the custody of your children.

Excessive legal costs for beneficiaries

If there is no will in place to determine which family members receives certain assets, some family members may have to hire a lawyer to obtain what they feel is an equitable share.

Because the laws of intestacy are so complex, this can often result in lengthy legal proceedings.

This is not only costly, but carries an emotional toll for your family.

Your children may not receive their fair share

If your surviving partner is not good with money, they may waste your estate on frivolous purchases or bad investment decisions.

This could result in your children struggling financially in the years to come.

If you have a will, you can allocate funds to your children to ensure their financial well-being.

Loved ones may not know your preferred funeral arrangements

Another excellent use for a last will and testament is to outline your preferred funeral arrangements.

This helps your family understand if you should be buried or cremated, and what should be done with your remains.

Having these details in writing can help to prevent any arguments between family members.

Beneficiaries may pay more tax than necessary

Writing a last will and testament allows you to distribute your assets in a way that minimises any potential tax burden associated with inheritance.

If you do not have a will, recipients may simply receive lump sums, assets, or businesses that unnecessarily increase their tax burden.

Your legacy could be damaged or destroyed

Having a will allows you to make special arrangements for assets that are a part of your legacy.

Your legacy may include a highly successful business that the local community relies upon or a unique building that is highly valuable.

With a will, you can make special arrangements for these items, so your legacy continues.

Without a will, you won’t have an executor that you trust

You can also use your will to appoint an executor, who will oversee the equitable distribution of assets.

They will deal with the logistics of asset distribution and may be asked to make important decisions about how to handle certain assets.

Having a trusted person in this role helps you ensure the entire process runs smoothly.

Thanks for reading The Devastating Consequences Of Not Writing A Will Before You Die.

If you are interested in learning more about the importance of making a will, contact us today.

Stephen Coleclough

Stephen Coleclough is a leading international tax adviser who specialises in dealing with ultra high net worth individuals.

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