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When a person dies, having left a Will, they will usually have appointed an executor. The advantage of having an executor is that there is somebody who can act immediately to sort out urgent matters and, also, to deal with personal affairs. In contrast, when someone dies intestate, a vacuum immediately arises.
Apart from the need for a relative or friend to apply for Letters of Administration before anything can be done, and this can take many months, assets are distributed under the intestacy law and that may be not as the person wished. If the deceased has left a surviving spouse or civil partner, they will inherit the first £250,000 of an estate if there are children. The children will then inherit half of the remainder, whilst the spouse will have a life interest in the other half and when they die, that half also goes to the children. If there are no children, the surviving spouse or civil partner will inherit the first £450,000, half of anything else, with the rest of the estate going to other family members.
Such an arrangement can be further complicated so far as joint property is concerned, because joint property, including bank accounts and other investments, usually will go to the joint, surviving owner in any event.
There is a particular problem concerning co-habiting partners. There is no provision under an intestacy for them, despite the fact that a very large number of couples prefer to live together. There is currently a debate on whether or not to alter the law but the problem will be defining who is a co-habiting partner.
If you do not have a Will, you are not in a minority as best estimates suggest that about 2 out of 3 adults in the U.K. are in the same position. That is a startling statistic because intestacy means your near family may not be properly provided for and you have no opportunity of directing where special possessions go nor to make gifts to friends or favoured charities. Above all, an intestacy can lead to a court case, the last thing most families want.
Making a Will is a straightforward process. Most people’s wishes are fairly simple and expert solicitors can reflect those wishes quickly and easily. A Will means you can choose who will handle your affairs, they can do so quickly, and you can direct who will receive your property. At what is always a difficult time, a Will gives a lot of peace of mind.
For more information about making a Will, please speak to our Private Client team.