This is one of the most common misconceptions we hear from people who do not have a Will, and do not think they need one.
If you die without making a Will, then the Intestacy Rules will apply to who receives your property and other assets (called your ‘estate’). This means that your estate could end up passing to people you do not want to inherit. These rules differ depending on your marital status when you die, and the people you leave behind.*
Whilst it is true that your spouse or civil partner will receive something, they will not necessarily receive everything and this is why it’s so important to make a Will.
If you are married or in a civil partnership when you die (regardless of whether you live together), your spouse will receive the first £250,000 of your estate together with your personal belongings (called your ‘chattels’). Anything over this amount will be divided between your spouse and your children, if you have them. If therefore your estate is collectively worth, say, £500,000, then your spouse will receive a total of £375,000 and the children will share the remaining £125,000 between them.
Another important factor to consider if you don’t already have a Will is inheritance tax. If money is passing to children, it could be subject to inheritance tax. Whereas, if you want everything passes to your spouse on your death then there will be no inheritance tax to pay at all. This means that not having a Will in place could cost you more than you expect.
If you do not have any children on your death, then your spouse or civil partner will receive everything.
That said, it is always best to leave a valid Will, so that you can set out exactly what you want to happen to your estate when you die. By doing this, you can avoid paying more inheritance tax than you need to, avoid disputes between loved ones, and, above all, ensure that your wishes are carried out as you would want them to be.
*Please note that this post applies only to England and Wales, the law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is different.