Most people incorrectly think that in the event they die without making a Will, their estate will pass to their spouse.
In fact, if there are children of the family, a surviving spouse will only be entitled to the first £250,000 of a deceased's estate outright. The remaining assets will be divided in half. 50% will pass outright to any children of the family and 50% will be held on life interest trust for the benefit of the surviving spouse. This means that he or she will be entitled to the income generated by the investment of the fund but not to the capital itself.
Given the value of property this may cause problems as a large proportion of an 'average' estate is in bricks and mortar. If this applies to you, would your spouse be able to live comfortably without your cash assets also passing to them?
Of course assets owned as joint tenants will automatically pass to the surviving owner irrespective of whether or not there is a Will.
In the event that you are not married but co-habiting, your partner will receive nothing! If there are children of the partnership, they will take all. If there are no children the estate will pass to the deceased's family - parents, siblings and possibly wider family members depending on individual circumstances.
If the deceased was maintaining their partner at the time of death, the partner can make application for a share of the estate to the Court - a costly and stressful experience at a time of grief.