What happens if you don’t have a will?

If you don’t have a will when you die, your money, property and possessions will be shared out according to the law, instead of how you want them to be. This can mean they pass to someone you hadn’t intended, or that someone you want to pass things on to ends up with nothing. Being married does not automatically mean that your husband or wife is your sole, or even main, beneficiary.

Why you should have a will

If you die without leaving a will, the law decides who gets what and how much. You have no say in the matter and your hard-earned assets could end up with people who you think are undeserving.

By leaving a will that clearly states who should get your property and money when you die, you can prevent unnecessary distress at an already difficult time for your family or friends.

What is intestacy?

Dying without a will is called intestacy or dying intestate.  will 2

The law about exactly who gets what is different in depending on where you live and where assets are held, but a will is the best way of ensuring that your wishes prevail.

Common rules if you don’t make a will

If you are married, your husband or wife may inherit most or all of your estate and your children may not get anything. This could be the case even if you are separated.

If you are not married and not in a civil partnership, your partner is not legally entitled to anything when you die, no matter how long you have been together.

If you have children or grandchildren, how much they are legally entitled to will depend on where you live and where your assets are held, but if you make a will you can decide this yourself.

Any Inheritance Tax that your estate has to pay may be higher than it would be if you had made a will.

If you die with no living close relatives, your whole estate could be passed to the government.

Considerations if you have children

If you have children under the age of majority, a will allows you to specify who should be their legal guardian(s) should both parents die. You therefore get to choose who will bring up your children, not any government representatives who could select a family member who is not your preferred choice.

If the chosen guardian is in a different country, which is often the case for expatriates, you can also organise a simple legal document that allows you to select an interim guardian, who can look after them until your legally specified guardian takes over.

How to write a will

My advice is to see a lawyer, experienced in this area. Whilst it is possible to write a will yourself or use a will writing service, it is generally agreed that lawyers make as much money sorting out poorly written wills than arranging them in the first place. For people who have assets in more than one country, there are additional legal complications, so for something this important it is worth paying for proper advice.

Matters to consider

You need to draw up a list of your assets and who you want to receive them in the event if your death. As well as properties, investments and bank accounts, you may also want to leave specific personal possessions such as jewellery or works of art to certain people. If you own a business, you’ll need to consider what would happen to that.

When writing a will you’ll need to name at least one executor. This is the person who will ensure that your will is dealt with on your death and your wishes followed or ‘executed’. Ideally this person needs to be someone who comfortable dealing with paperwork, although a lawyer can assist them.

The next step

At Holborn Assets we offer a comprehensive will writing service headed by a lawyer with many years of experience in family law. We offer a face to face service and comprehensive advice on the best way in structuring a will to meet your needs. We also offer advice on suitable trusts, inheritance tax planning and arranging an Enduring Power of Attorney, as well as how Sharia law could affect you.

Contact me at keren@holbornassets.com for further information.

You may also want to check out a previous article on the topic of wills: http://financialuae.me/2011/05/11/where-theres-a-will/

About FinancialUAE

A qualified and experienced Independent Financial Adviser based in Dubai, UAE. Professional and ethical. Freelance writer on personal financial issues & the On Your Side column in The National. Founder of Facebook group British Expats Dubai. Senior Partner at Holborn Assets LLC, Dubai, UAE.
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1 Response to What happens if you don’t have a will?

  1. Sam says:

    Thanks for sharing this.Very good article

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