Caroline Aherne's mum to inherit £500k estate after she leaves no will

Emma Woollacott
Caroline Aherne death
Caroline Aherne death

Comedy writer and actress Caroline Aherne's mother will inherit her entire £500,000 estate because the star didn't make a will.

Aherne, who starred in Mrs Merton and The Royle Family, was 52 when she died from cancer in July, after a two-year illness. A former heavy smoker, she revealed that she was suffering from lung cancer in 2014.

Despite this, she failed to make a will; and because she wasn't married and had no children, her full estate of £504,060 will go to her mother Mary under government intestacy rules.

Famous faces who died without leaving a will

Earlier this year, figures released by Citizen's Advice revealed that the number of people dying without leaving a will has more than doubled over the last five years.

Many people keep putting it off, while others believe they don't have anything to leave.

Intestacy is a particular problem for unmarried couples. Many people believe that a long-term relationship gives them a 'common-law marriage' with legal rights - but this isn't the case.

Up to a quarter of Brits have wills that could end in disaster

Partners only inherit if they were married or in a civil partnership at the time of death; otherwise, the estate goes to relatives. Children, grand-children and great-grandchildren are first in line; if there are none, parents are next.

If there are no surviving relatives, the estate goes to the Crown.

However, even if you intend to leave your estate to the same person who would get it under intestacy rules, it's still worth making a will. Without one, probate - the business of settling the dead person's affairs - can take a great deal longer, and cost thousands of pounds more.

"Thousands of people die every year without making a will or without one that has been properly drafted," says Jonathan Smithers from the Law Society. "If you die without a will your final wishes may well go unheeded, and your loved ones may have to cope with additional financial stress at a time of bereavement."

How to get your will written for free

Making a will can be an uncomfortable process, and Aherne is by no means the only star to have ducked the job. Earlier this year, for example, it was revealed that Prince had died intestate.

In 2014, Rick Mayall died without a will leaving £1.2 million - and a huge tax bill for his family. And when Martin Luther King passed away intestate in 1968 it sparked a series of rows between his children which have carried on to this day.