A will is a legal document that gives instructions about who you want to inherit your money and belongings. Writing a will makes sure everything you leave when you die (your estate) goes to the people you want it to.
If you die without making a will, it is called dying intestate. It often takes much longer to deal with the estate if you die without a will. It may also mean that the people who inherit the estate are not the people you would have chosen.
Who will inherit my estate without a will?
What happens will depend on which part of the UK you live in and your situation:
- If you have a husband, wife or civil partner, or you have children, your estate may be split between these people. This includes adopted children, but not stepchildren (unless you have adopted them).
- If you have a partner, but you are not married, they have no legal right to inherit anything. This is the case even if you have lived with a partner for years. However, they may be able to apply to a court for financial support from your estate if they are dependent on you. Other relatives and friends may also do this.
- If you don’t have a husband, wife, civil partner or children, your estate may go to your parents, siblings or even more distant relatives. It depends on which part of the UK you live in.
- If you don’t have any relatives, everything will go to the state.
It is important to note that if any child has died, but left their own children, those grandchildren can claim the share that their parent could have claimed if they were still alive.
To find out exactly what the law says about inheritance without a will where you live, use the online tool at GOV.UK.