If you pass away without leaving a Will then you will have died ‘intestate’ and your estate will be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules, a set of rules which apply dictating who can administer your estate and who benefits from your estate. This is set out in a hierarchy starting with spouses/civil partners down to those who are most closely related to you, through the bloodline. In some cases, the government may receive your estate.
The rules also set out in what proportions your estate will be inherited.
This may not accord with your wishes and may mean those who are closest to you i.e. step-children, partners or charities you care about, receive nothing.
If you have a large extended family this can become extremely complex and longwinded, as who will deal with the matter will need to be determined as well as locating far-flung relatives, those who have moved abroad etc. In some cases, it is necessary to appoint a genealogist to build a family tree which adds time and expense to the matter.