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What Happens if You Die Without a Will?

Newsletter issue - May 07.

If you have no valid Will when you die your assets are divided up according to the intestacy rules, which set out a strict order of relations who must inherit all your worldly goods. If you own more than £125,000 at your death, your spouse (or civil partner), will only get £125,000 and a right to use half of the reminder during his or her lifetime. The balance is divided between your children, or if they have died, your grandchildren. This could mean that the family home will have to be sold if your children and grandchildren don't agree.

The situation is much worse if you are not married to your partner, as they have absolutely no rights on your death at all. Unless your partner owns part of the home you share, he or she could be made homeless when you die. If your parents are no longer living at the time of your death, all your wealth will be shared between your brothers and sisters, and if they have died, it goes to your nieces and nephews. This could mean your assets, including the value of your home, are given to relatives you hardly know, and who may not have any loyalty to your partner.

The best policy is to have a properly written Will, but unfortunately to save tax when leaving assets to your partner you must be legally married or in a same-sex civil partnership. A so-called common law relationship is not legally recognised, even if you have been living together for years and have children together.