For the want of a will

For the want of a nail…

The shoe was lost

For the want of a shoe the horse was lost

For the want of a horse the rider was lost

For the want of a rider the battle was lost

For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.


So goes the old proverb. This is equally relevant today as it was back then. The chains of causality are perceived only in hindsight in the proverb. No one ever lamented upon seeing an unshod horse that would eventually cause the kingdom to fall.

Why is this important now?  I believe that the same can be said about not having a will. Research shows that 55% of adults in England and Wales don’t have a will in place and perhaps more shockingly only 26% of parents of children under 4 have a will.

There is a great deal of will apathy in England and Wales and it is a job that we all are guilty of putting off.

I always advise and cannot stress enough the importance of a will for anyone over the age of 18. Through this blog, I aim to set out the facts as straightforwardly as I can.

So for the ‘want of a will’ what could happen.

If you are married or in a civil partnership

Your spouse would not necessarily inherit all of your estate.

If you die without a will in place, you are what is called an ‘intestate’ person. This means that the distribution of your estate will be governed by the laws of intestacy. Below I will set out a simplified explanation of intestacy; it is often not this simple and for the purposes of this article I am disregarding jointly owned property.

If you are married or in a civil partnership; your estate will be split as follows:

If you have children:

The surviving spouse would receive:

  • The statutory legacy of £270,000;
  • Your household and personal goods; and
  • Half/50% of the rest.

Your children would share the rest of the estate on the statutory trusts (which means equally at age 18 or earlier if they were to respectively marry).

If you don’t have children, then your entire estate will pass to the surviving spouse.

If you are not married or in a civil partnership then your estate will be split as follows:

  • If you have children or grandchildren – equally on the statutory trusts (see above)
  • If none, then to your parents or the survivor of them in equal shares;
  • If none, then to your brothers or sisters (or their issue) in equal shares;
  • If none, then to your grandparents or the survivor of them in equal shares;
  • If none, to the Crown.

If you are co-habiting with your common law spouse.

Your partner would receive nothing. It really is that simple.


If you have minor children

Depending on whether you are married or in a civil partnership, they may receive a proportion of your estate, all of your estate or nothing.

If they do inherit they will inherit at age eighteen or between the ages of 16 and 18 if they were to marry. This can put their inheritance at risk.

Perhaps more importantly, if you don’t have a will, then no one is appointed as their guardian and this could lead to someone you don’t necessarily like or trust looking after your children.

What happens in a family disaster?

You have no say as to who gets what. The law is very prescriptive as to who gets what under intestacy. It can lead to remote family members who you may not know or like inheriting your estate.

So the next time you look at your to-do list on the fridge, just think ‘for the want of a will’.

Why BLM?

We appreciate that the law around wills and probate can be confusing.  Our expert team is fully equipped to understand your needs and guide you through the process with clarity and consistency.

At BLM we have developed our four-step methodology to help you meet your goals.

Our clients value our guidance on the best way to meet their goals and proceed with peace of mind.

If the topics explored in this blog have piqued your interest,  then book a ‘discovery call’ with our Wills and Estate Planning team so that we can explore working together to help you meet your individual goals.

Disclaimer: This document does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of the law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that may be of interest to clients of BLM. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.

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