The day the music died ... without a Will

In August 2018 Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, died without leaving a Will. Her four sons are now undertaking the necessary steps to request that their mother’s $80 million estate be divided equally between them. Their lives could have been made simpler, and Aretha’s specific wishes followed, if she had left a valid Will. 

Research suggests that nearly two thirds of adults in the UK do not have a Will. But what happens in England and Wales if someone dies intestate (without a valid Will)? 

The first question that needs to be asked is whether the deceased was married (or in a civil partnership)? 

If the deceased was married with children then: 
•The spouse receives the first £250,000 and all personal chattels. 
•The spouse receives 50% of the remaining estate. 
•The deceased’s children receive the remaining 50% equally between them (or it is held in trust until they are 18). 

If the deceased was married but without children then the entire estate passes to the surviving spouse. 

If the deceased was not married then the order of entitlement is: 
•Children (or grandchildren if any children have predeceased). 
•Parents. 
•Brothers and sisters (or their descendants if a brother/sister has predeceased). 
•Half brothers and sisters (or their descendants if a brother/sister has predeceased). 
•Grandparents. 
•Aunts and uncles (or their descendants if an aunt/uncle has predeceased). 
•The Crown 

An issue with the rules of intestacy is that they fail to recognise modern family arrangements. For example, there are no rights for couples who are not married, or for step-children who are not formally adopted. While it might be possible for such parties to make a claim against the estate, this can be costly and time-consuming as well as stressful for everyone involved. 

To ensure that your estate doesn’t have to be distributed under the rules of intestacy, you need only prepare a valid Will. At Wansbroughs, we can help you put your wishes into writing. For more information about preparing a Will, please contact us on 01380 733300 or wealth@wansbroughs.com and ask to speak to a member of our Private Client team.

Last updated 26/09/2018