Over half of adults in the UK do not have a valid Will. This means that when they die, their assets are distributed in accordance with the Intestacy Rules which can cause all manner of problems if assets are sent to undeserving members of a family or, for example, a substantial inheritance is left to teenage adults without any control. Assuming you live in England or Wales, if you die Intestate, the rules are:
Married/civil partnership with no children – your spouse receives everything;
Married/civil partnership with children – your spouse receives your personal assets and the first £270,000 in value. The remainder is split equally between your spouse and your children (including illegitimate and adopted but not step-children)
It becomes more complicated if you are neither married or in a civil partnership. Now, in order of set off, your assets go absolutely to your children and then to your living parents, before your siblings are considered as beneficiaries. If the assets still cannot be distributed, the rules then send your assets to your living grandparents and then to your aunts and uncles. If either your children, siblings or aunts and uncles have already died but have themselves left beneficiaries, those beneficiaries can stand in their stead.
Ultimately, if no beneficiaries can be found, your estate goes to the Crown.
If your assets to pass to a minor, the government will hold them in trust until they reach age 18 whereupon their inheritance is released to them without any controls, whether or not they are financially mature enough to handle the responsibility.
Even without considering whether any Inheritance Tax or Trust planning might be useful, a simple Will can prevent your assets going to places that they ought not to. With modern lives being a lot more complicated than the simple old-fashioned family unit, having a Will has never been more important and can save so many problems.
For preparation of a Will, whilst you do not legally require one, it is recommended that you should speak to a suitably qualified solicitor or Will preparer. For inheritance tax advice, you should speak to a suitably qualified tax professional.