Why not leaving a will could hurt those left behind

Glenn Welby and Aodh McGrath, Welby Associates
Glenn Welby and Aodh McGrath, Welby Associates

Losing a loved one can be a distressing time.

Dealing with the grief, coming to terms with the loss and looking back at their life is never easy, but it can bring closure – something which is vital when we are faced with something tough.

However, that closure could be disrupted if it emerges that we’ve been left out of their will - or worse - they neglected to write one at all.

Whilst it tends to be unintentional, the devastating consequences for those left behind should not be underestimated, especially as families can end up being totally torn apart.

One such case which highlights this has received a lot of press coverage in recent years, as well as demonstrating the importance of formalising final wishes. Heather v Ilott centred on a mother who had left her £486,000 estate to three charities, leaving out her estranged daughter entirely.

While the daughter initially succeeded in challenging this, the decision has now been overturned by the Supreme Court following an appeal from the charities involved.

There are a number of reasons why someone may not receive the inheritance they expected, as illustrated by the above case. However, the main one relates to the will itself - or rather, the lack of it.

Contrary to popular belief, assets won’t always pass to the person who seems the most likely to benefit. Therefore, a will is the only formal way of ensuring that the estate is distributed in line with the deceased’s wishes.

Of course, this works both ways. As demonstrated in Heather v Ilott, it was the mother’s wish to pass on her wealth to the charities rather than her family. If there hadn’t been a will, this would not have been possible.

Who could be affected?

Approximately 27 million people, as well as those who would have been set to benefit from their will.

Around 57% of UK adults do not have a will and as a result, their estates will be distributed according to intestacy law - potentially far from their intended wishes.

Why is this such a


Whilst you might think that a close relationship with the deceased would automatically entitle you to a larger share of the estate, this is not always the case.

Under intestacy law, only partners that are actually married or in a civil partnership at the time of death are eligible to receive a portion of the inheritance, along with those who may have separated prior to death.

For those who cohabit but have never been married however, the rules do not necessarily apply in the same way. Even if they have lived together for many years, they are not automatically entitled to anything.

Unless a property or bank accounts were owned jointly, the estate will pass down the hierarchal intestacy family tree, starting with children, to any grandchildren, parents and then any remaining aunts or uncles. If no blood relatives are alive, the estate will pass to the Crown.

Whilst nobody likes to think about death, considering the future of those left behind is important. We all want to make a difference to the lives of our loved ones and once we are gone, what we leave in our will is the only way to do this.

To ensure that your estate is passed on in line with your wishes, contact Welby Associates by calling 02892622910.