The last thing you do

Dying intestate isn’t the best legacy for your family, especially as the outcomes may not be what you expect. The rules of intestacy apply if someone dies without leaving a valid will and differ quite a bit between the three UK jurisdictions.

To understand the importance of leaving a valid will you need only consider all those who have no automatic right of inheritance:

  • Unmarried partners
  • LBGT partners not in a civil partnership
  • Relations by marriage
  • Close friends
  • Carers.

Spouse and children

You can see the differences between the three jurisdictions by looking at who inherits if someone dies intestate with an estate valued at £800,000 (including personal possessions worth £10,000 and a £450,000 home), leaving a spouse and children (‘spouse’ for this purpose includes civil partners).

  • England and Wales: The spouse will receive £530,000, with the remaining £270,000 split equally between the children.
  • Scotland: The spouse will receive £600,000, with the remaining £200,000 split equally between the children.
  • Northern Ireland:  If there is just one child then the split is the same as for England and Wales. However, if there is more than one child, the spouse will only receive £440,000, with the other £360,000 split equally between the children.

The government’s online tool at gov.uk can quickly establish who will inherit if someone dies without leaving a valid will. It covers all three jurisdictions.

Separation

The intestacy rules can also mean an inheritance going to someone you might prefer to exclude, such as a former spouse. For example, in England an informal separation does not make any difference to what a spouse receives.

To ensure your estate goes only to whom you want to benefit, make a will and keep it updated as your wealth and circumstances change.