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  • Published:
    05 December

What to do when loved one dies with no will

Commenting on what to do in the event of a loved one dying with no will in place following the news that Caroline Aherne didn’t leave a will, Andrew Wilkinson, partner and will dispute specialist at Shakespeare Martineau, says: 

“There are a number of misconceptions about what happens to an individual’s estate if no will has been created - relying on intestacy provisions [when you do not have a will] can be extremely risky and could end up costing your loved ones dearly.   

To avoid such large inheritance tax bills, Caroline could have left a significant proportion of her estate to a spouse and/or a charity - for example a cancer research organisation – without it being taxed 40% by HMRC. 

Also, as the effect of the intestacy provisions depends on the value of your estate, they can result in assets being “split” and ending up with unintended beneficiaries. As family structures are now more complex than ever, ensuring your estate is administered as you wish, is crucial. It is incorrect to assume, where an estate is worth more than £250,000 that everything passes to your surviving spouse or a particular family member – relying on the goodwill of family members to “do the right thing” is a risk not worth taking. 

Creating a will is the best way of ensuring that your estate passes as you intend, even if the value of your assets increases over time. It is also a good idea, as part of that process, to consider the likely effect of Inheritance Tax on your estate.
It is a false economy to assume that reliance on the intestacy provisions is a more cost effective method of managing what happens to your estate. If there is no will in place, it can end up costing the family much more in unravelling the mess that it often creates.”

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