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How to write a will in the UK? What happens if I don’t make a will? What about Islamic Wills?

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A Will is important as it provides an opportunity to set out your final wishes with regards to your money, possessions, and funeral arrangements.


Your will lets you decide what happens to your money, property and possessions after your death.

If you make a will you can also make sure you do not pay more Inheritance Tax than you need to.

You can write your will yourself, but you should get advice if your will is not straightforward.

You need to get your will formally witnessed and signed to make it legally valid.

If you want to update your will, you need to make an official alteration (called a ‘codicil’) or make a new will.


If you die without a will, the law decides who gets what.


Write your will


Your will should set out:

  • who you want to benefit from your will.
  • who should look after any children under 18.
  • who is going to sort out your estate and carry out. your wishes after your death (your executor).
  • what happens if the people you want to benefit die before you.



You can also include a charity in your will.


When you need legal advice


You can get advice from a professional if your will is not straightforward, for example:

  • you share a property with someone who is not your husband, wife or civil partner.
  • you want to leave money or property to a dependant who cannot care for themselves.
  • you have several family members who may make a claim on your will, such as a second spouse or children from another marriage.
  • your permanent home is outside the UK.
  • you have property overseas.
  • you have a business.



Keep your will safe


You can keep your will at your home or store it with:

  • your solicitor.
  • your bank.
  • a company that offers the storage of wills - you can search online.





You should tell your executor (the person you’ve chosen to carry out your will), a close friend or relative where your will is.




Make sure your will is legal


For your will to be legally valid, you must:

  • be 18 or over.
  • make it voluntarily.
  • be of sound mind.
  • make it in writing.
  • sign it in the presence of 2 witnesses who are both over 18.
  • have it signed by your 2 witnesses, in your presence.


Signing can be witnessed both in person and remotely (for example by video conferencing). In both cases:

  • you must have a clear view of the person and the act of signing.
  • the will maker (or person authorised to sign on their behalf) and witnesses must sign the same document.



You can only sign remotely in England or Wales.

If you make any changes to your will you must follow the same signing and witnessing process.

You cannot leave your witnesses (or their married partners) anything in your will.



Update your will


You should review your will every 5 years and after any major change in your life, for example:

  • getting separated or divorced.
  • getting married (this cancels any will you made before).
  • having a child.
  • moving house.
  • if the executor named in the will dies.


Making changes to your will


You cannot amend your will after it’s been signed and witnessed. The only way you can change a will is by making an official alteration called a codicil.

You must sign a codicil and get it witnessed in the same way as witnessing a will.


There’s no limit on how many codicils you can add to a will.


Making a new will


For major changes you should make a new will.

Your new will should explain that it revokes (officially cancels) all previous wills and codicils. You should destroy your old will by burning it or tearing it up.


How do I update my will?



You should review your will every five years and after any major change in your life such as a new grandchild or moving house. Never make alterations on the original document.

If you are making a minor amendment to your will, you can add a supplement, known as a codicil. This must be signed and witnessed in the same way as the will, although the witnesses don’t have to be the same as the original ones.

If anything substantial needs to be changed, you should make a new will and cancel your old one.



Codicils


A codicil is a supplement to a will which makes some alterations but leaves the rest of it intact. This might be done, for example, to increase a cash legacy, change an executor or guardian named in a will, or to add beneficiaries.

A codicil must be signed by the person who made the will and be witnessed in the same way. However, the witnesses do not have to be the same as for the original will.

There is no limit on how many codicils can be added to a will, but they are only suitable for very straightforward changes. If a complicated change is involved, it is usually advisable to make a new will.


Do I have to change my will if I get remarried or divorced?


If you marry, remarry or enter a civil partnership, this cancels a previously existing will. Divorce doesn’t automatically invalidate a will made during the marriage, but does exclude your ex-spouse or civil partner from benefitting if they are mentioned in the will. Arrange a new will if you marry, separate or divorce.



What happens if I don’t make a will?


If you don’t make a will, you will die ‘intestate’ and your estate may not go to the people you want. There are special rules for how your estate will be distributed these are called intestacy rules.

If you have a spouse or civil partner and children, your spouse or civil partner will inherit all your personal possessions and at least the first £250,000 of your estate, plus half the rest. Your children will then be entitled to the other half of the balance.

If you have a spouse or civil partner but don’t have children your spouse or civil partner will inherit your whole estate, including your personal possessions.
If you and your partner aren’t married or in a civil partnership and you haven’t made a will, they have no automatic right to inherit from your estate. This applies even if you've lived together for a long time or have children together.

If you have children and your spouse or partner is deceased your children will inherit everything, divided equally between them.
If you don’t have a partner or children then parents, brothers, sisters, and nieces and nephews may inherit your estate.


Who can inherit if there is no will – the rules of intestacy



This advice applies to England. See advice for Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales

When a person dies without leaving a valid will, their property (the estate) must be shared out according to certain rules. These are called the rules of intestacy. A person who dies without leaving a will is called an intestate person.

Only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under the rules of intestacy.

If someone makes a will but it is not legally valid, the rules of intestacy decide how the estate will be shared out, not the wishes expressed in the will.


Married partners and civil partners


Married partners or civil partners inherit under the rules of intestacy only if they are actually married or in a civil partnership at the time of death. So if you are divorced or if your civil partnership has been legally ended, you can’t inherit under the rules of intestacy.

Partners who separated informally can still inherit under the rules of intestacy. Cohabiting partners (sometimes wrongly called 'common-law' partners) who were neither married nor in a civil partnership can't inherit under the rules of intestacy.

If there are surviving children, grandchildren or great grandchildren of the person who died and the estate is valued at more than £270,000, the partner will inherit:

  • all the personal property and belongings of the person who has died, and
  • the first £270,000 of the estate, and
  • half of the remaining estate.


For example:
Susan was in a civil partnership with Fang and they adopted a daughter called Jia. Susan died without leaving a will. Her estate is worth £450,000. After Fang inherits her share of £270,000, the estate that is left is worth £180,000. Fang can have half of this - £90,000.

If there are no surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, the partner will inherit:

  • all the personal property and belongings of the person who has died and
  • the whole of the estate with interest from the date of death.


Jointly-owned property


Couples may jointly own their home. There are two different ways of jointly owning a home. These are beneficial joint tenancies and tenancies in common.

If the partners were beneficial joint tenants at the time of the death, when the first partner dies, the surviving partner will automatically inherit the other partner's share of the property. However, if the partners are tenants in common, the surviving partner does not automatically inherit the other person's share.

For more information about beneficial joint tenancies and tenancies in common, see Buying with someone else in Buying a home.

Couples may also have joint bank or building society accounts. If one dies, the other partner will automatically inherit the whole of the money.

Property and money that the surviving partner inherits does not count as part of the estate of the person who has died when it is being valued for the intestacy rules.

Example:
Tom and Heather are married and own their flat jointly as beneficial joint tenants. They have a child called Selma. Tom dies intestate leaving the jointly-owned flat worth £300,000, and £50,000 in shares in his own name. The flat goes automatically to Heather. This leaves an estate of £50,000 which also goes to Heather, as it is worth less than £270,000. Selma inherits nothing.

If Tom had owned the flat in his name alone, his estate would have been worth £350,000. It would be shared out according to the rules of intestacy, that is, Heather would get the first £270,000. This leaves an estate of £80,000. Heather would get £40,000 and Selma would get the remaining £40,000.


Close relatives


Children

Children of the intestate person will inherit if there is no surviving married or civil partner. If there is a surviving partner, they will inherit only if the estate is worth more than a certain amount.
Children - if there is no surviving married or civil partner

If there is no surviving partner, the children of a person who has died without leaving a will inherit the whole estate. This applies however much the estate is worth. If there are two or more children, the estate will be divided equally between them.


Children - if there is a surviving partner


If there is a surviving partner, a child only inherits from the estate if the estate is valued at over £270,000. If there are two or more children, the children will inherit in equal shares:

  • one half of the value of the estate above £270,000.


All the children of the parent who has died intestate inherit equally from the estate. This also applies where a parent has children from different relationships.

For example:
Alan and Grace were married and have two children, Tim and Annie. Alan and Grace get divorced. Alan then has a child, Mark, with his new partner Beata. Alan and Beata do not marry. Alan dies. Grace does not inherit under the intestacy rules because she is divorced from Alan and neither does Beata because she has not married Alan. Tim, Annie and Mark inherit all of Alan's estate in equal shares.

A child whose parents are not married or have not registered a civil partnership can inherit from the estate of a parent who dies intestate. These children can also inherit from grandparents or great-grandparents who have died intestate.

Adopted children (including step-children who have been adopted by their step-parent) have rights to inherit under the rules of intestacy. But otherwise you have to be a biological child to inherit.

Children do not receive their inheritance immediately. They receive it when they:

  • reach the age of 18, or
  • marry or form a civil partnership under this age.


Until then, trustees manage the inheritance on their behalf.


Grandchildren and great grandchildren


A grandchild or great grandchild cannot inherit from the estate of an intestate person unless either:

  • their parent or grandparent has died before the intestate person, or
  • their parent is alive when the intestate person dies but dies before reaching the age of 18 without having married or formed a civil partnership.


In these circumstances, the grandchildren and great grandchildren will inherit equal shares of the share to which their parent or grandparent would have been entitled.

Example: Abdul has two sons, Iqbal and Ismail. Ismail has one daughter, Habiba. Ismail dies when Habiba is two years old. Abdul dies intestate when she is 20. Habiba inherits Ismail's share of Abdul's estate.


Other close relatives


Parents, brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews of the intestate person may inherit under the rules of intestacy. This will depend on a number of circumstances:

  • whether there is a surviving married or civil partner.
  • whether there are children, grandchildren or great grandchildren.
  • in the case of nephews and nieces, whether the parent directly related to the person who has died is also dead
  • the amount of the estate.


Other relatives may have a right to inherit if the person who died intestate had no surviving married partner or civil partner, children, grandchildren, great grand-children, parents, brothers, sisters, nephews or nieces. The order of priority amongst other relatives is as follows:-

  • grandparents.
  • uncles and aunts. A cousin can inherit instead if the uncle or aunt who would have inherited died before the intestate person.
  • half-uncles and half-aunts. A half-cousin can inherit instead if the half-uncle or half-aunt who would have inherited died before the intestate person.


Who cannot inherit


The following people have no right to inherit where someone dies without leaving a will:

  • unmarried partners (sometimes wrongly called 'common-law' partners).
  • lesbian or gay partners not in a civil partnership.
  • relations by marriage.
  • close friends.
  • carers


However, even if you can't inherit under the rules of intestacy, you might be able to apply to court for financial provision from the estate.


If there are no surviving relatives


If there are no surviving relatives who can inherit under the rules of intestacy, the estate passes to the Crown. This is known as bona vacantia. The Treasury Solicitor is then responsible for dealing with the estate. The Crown can make grants from the estate but does not have to agree to them.

If you are not a surviving relative, but you believe you have a good reason to apply for a grant, you will need legal advice.

For more information about bona vacantia go to the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

Find out more about getting legal advice.


Rearranging the way the estate is shared out


It is possible to rearrange the way property is shared out when someone dies without leaving a will, provided this is done within two years of the death. This is called making a deed of family arrangement or variation. All the people who would inherit under the rules of intestacy must agree.

If they agree, the property can be shared out in a different way so that people who do not inherit under the intestacy rules can still get some of the estate. Or they could agree that the amount that people get is different to the amount they would get under the rules of intestacy.

If you think that the way the estate is shared out should be rearranged, you will need legal advice. You may get legal aid.

For more information about getting legal aid, legal advice, and help with legal costs.

You may be able to apply to court for reasonable financial help from the estate of the person who has died intestate. For example, if you were living with the person who has died but you were not married to them, you would not inherit under the rules of intestacy. However, you could apply to court for financial help. You must have lived with them for at least two years immediately before their death. Another example is if you were always treated by the person who died as a child of the family. You would not inherit under the rules of intestacy but you could apply to the court for financial help.

You must make the application within a certain time limit although in some circumstances this can be extended.

The court may order:

  • regular payments from the estate
  • a lump sum payment from the estate
  • property to be transferred from the estate.


If you want to apply to the court for financial help, you will need legal advice.


Rejecting your inheritance


If you reject your inheritance, known as disclaiming it, there are special rules about who can inherit. You should seek advice about this.


Islamic Wills


A Will is important as it provides an opportunity to set out your final wishes with regards to your money, possessions, and funeral arrangements.
By setting out your wishes helps avoid potential family disputes and ensures that your assets are inherited by the right individuals.

However, making a Will is particularly important to British Muslims, as the UK is a non-Islamic country and their assets will not be distributed in line with Islamic legislation if they die without a Will (dying intestate).

Domestic British law is, of course, different from Shariah law, which means that if you die without an accurate and legally valid Islamic Will in the UK, it will be handled without your religious beliefs in mind.

It is important to note that if you are a Muslim and you die without leaving a Will, you are deemed to have died ‘intestate’. This means that your estate will be distributed according to the UK rules on intestacy which do not match up with «the rules of Sharia.»

Your inheritance will automatically be divided amongst family members in accordance with the rules of intestacy, which could lead to family disputes and a lengthy, stressful probate process.

Under UK intestacy rules, any inheritance belonging to those without any surviving relatives that qualify for inheritance will be handed over to the Crown (the state).

To avoid the rules of intestacy, a Will must be legally valid in the UK. It is therefore of vital importance that you seek the help and advice of a legal professional to ensure that your Will complies with both Islamic and UK laws.

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Life In The UK: How to write a will in the UK? What happens if I don’t make a will? What about Islamic Wills?
How to write a will in the UK? What happens if I don’t make a will? What about Islamic Wills?
A Will is important as it provides an opportunity to set out your final wishes with regards to your money, possessions, and funeral arrangements.
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Life In The UK
https://www.ramizahra.co.uk/2021/11/Daily-life-in-the-UK-death-and-wills-who-can-inherit-if-there-is-no-will-the-rules-of-intestacy-make-will-en.html
https://www.ramizahra.co.uk/
http://www.ramizahra.co.uk/
http://www.ramizahra.co.uk/2021/11/Daily-life-in-the-UK-death-and-wills-who-can-inherit-if-there-is-no-will-the-rules-of-intestacy-make-will-en.html
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