An interesting question, the answer to which often isn’t straightforward. For example, it depends on your marital status and whether or not you own assets jointly (e.g. a house or bank account) with a partner.

The law sets out a ‘pecking order’ for who inherits if a person dies intestate (that is, without a Will). This begins with the person’s spouse, although if the person who has died had children, their spouse’s right to inherit is limited to personal belongings and the first £270,000 of the rest of the estate, plus half of the balance. The remainder of the estate goes to the children.

If most or all of the deceased’s wealth was tied up in the home they shared with their spouse, this is clearly a problem as the house could need to be sold to fund the children’s inheritance.

Where there are no children, the spouse inherits everything, and if there is no spouse but there are children, the children inherit everything in equal shares. Which may be fine – but may not be, if it increases the inheritance tax burden, or the deceased was estranged from a child.

In this case, the law applies equally to civil partners as it does to spouses.

Moving on, next in line to inherit are the deceased’s parents, then brothers and sisters (going on to nieces and nephews if necessary). Then we move onto grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins…

This may be suitable in some cases. However, single people with no children and no close relationships with their blood relatives, may prefer their property to go to a close friend when they die, rather than a distant uncle or cousin they never see.

Even with the ‘pecking order’ above, anyone considered ‘dependent’ on the deceased can make a claim on the estate if they do not believe they have inherited enough, which obviously reduces someone else’s inheritance.

By writing a Will, you ensure that your money and property go to the correct people in the correct shares, after you die.

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