Intestacy

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DIE WITHOUT A WILL

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 as set out by law. A person who dies without leaving a Will is called an intestate person.

When this occurs only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under the Rules of Intestacy.

Intestacy also occurs if someone makes a Will but it is not legally valid, in such cases the Rules of Intestacy decide how the estate will be shared out, not the wishes expressed in the Will.

From October 2014 the Law of England and Wales says - If you die leaving a spouse/civil partner and children:

The spouse/civil partner gets

  • Personal possessions
  • The first £250,000 (or everything if the estate is worth less than this); together with interest on the amount from the date of death
  • One half of anything that remains
  • Your children will receive the other half of anything that remains
  • Note: your children includes illegitimate and adopted, but not step-children. They can only inherit at the age.

If you die leaving a spouse/civil partner but no children,

  • Spouse/civil partner will receive everything

If you die without leaving a spouse/civil partner but children,

  • Everything is shared equally between the children

If you die without leaving children and spouse/civil partner the following relatives take in order.

  • Parents share equally (regardless of whether they remain married to each other); but if none:
    • Brothers and sisters of the whole blood share equally; but if any of them have died leaving children (being your nephews and nieces) they will take equally their parent’s share; but if none
      • Grandparents; but if none
        • Brothers and sisters of the half blood but if they have died before you then their children will take equally their parent’s shares; but if none
          • Uncles and aunts of the whole blood but if they have died before you then their children will take equally their parent’s share; but if none
            • Uncles and aunts of the half blood but if they have died before you then their children will take equally their parent’s shares; but if none
              • The Crown takes all

TERMINOLOGY

  • Intestate – means someone who dies without a valid Will
  • Children – means children, including illegitimate and children adopted by you – but not step-children
  • Person goods – car, furniture, pictures, clothing, jewellery etc.
  • Residue – this is what is owned once any debts (for example, funeral account and expenses for administration of the estate) have been paid
  • Life interest – this means having the right to receive the income from a sum of money for a spouse's lifetime; it does not include the right to spend the capital itself
  • Spouse - a husband or wife
  • Civil partner – same-sex couples who have had their relationship legally recognised as a "civil-partnership"
  • Half blood – this is where a relative shares one parent or grandparent with the person who has died
  • Whole blood – this is where a relative shares both parents or grandparents with the person who has died

WARNINGS

The law makes no provision for a partner to whom you are not married:

  • A partner with whom you have been living for more than two years may be able to make a claim against your estate for financial provision to be made for them. However, this is costly and could cause acrimony between all family members.
  • Your children from a previous marriage or relationship will not benefit at all if your estate is under £250,000.
  • You may have made a Will but note that it may be revoked on a subsequent marriage or civil partnership.
  • You may have made a Will but if you do not comply with the formalities or if it is subsequently provide that you lacked capacity, then the Will may be invalid.
  • You may have made a Will but if the Will does not dispose of all your property then the Intestacy Rules will apply to the undisposed part of your estate.
  • The only way you can make sure your estate goes to who you want is to make a valid Will.
  • Once you have made a Will, you must review it regularly so that if your sole beneficiary dies or was divorced from you then your must update your Will to prevent risking intestacy or the wrong person/s benefiting from your estate.

Wills can be a complex area depending on your personal circumstances and I am happy to discuss any aspects of your current or future Wills with you in person.

Come in and see me for free 15 minutes initial consultation for help and advice or call for further information contact me on 01708 375051