Intestacy rules explained - what happens if you die without making a will?.

Article | Caroline Fagence | 30th August 2019

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The following article explains what happens to a share of someone’s property, money or possessions if they die without making a will – which is legally known as intestacy.

Who will inherit if there is no will?

If you do not have a will, you will forfeit the privilege of deciding what should happen to your estate upon your death. Instead, your wealth will be allocated according to the rules of intestacy which are outlined below:

If you ARE married or in a civil partnership, WITH children:

  • If your estate is worth less than £250,000, your spouse will inherit your entire estate. Your spouse will receive these funds and will have no obligation to share any assets with your children.
  • If your estate is worth more than £250,000, your spouse will inherit £250,000 and any remaining amount is divided equally between your spouse and your children.

If you ARE married or in a civil partnership, with NO children

In this case, your spouse will receive your entire estate.

If you’re NOT married or in a civil partnership and HAVE children:

Your children will inherit your entire estate when they reach the age of 18.

If you’re NOT married or in a civil partnership and have NO children:

If you have no spouse or civil partner and no children, your entire estate will go to your family in the following order:

  • Parents
  • Siblings (incl. half-brother or half –sister)
  • Grandparents
  • Uncles and Aunts

If you have no living relatives, your estate will go to the crown.

Who is excluded from the rules of intestacy?

None of the following relations or friends can benefit from your estate if you die intestate:

  • Cohabitants or unmarried partners
  • Common law spouses
  • Ex-spouses or civil partners
  • Step-parents or stepchildren
  • Close friends

Do I need significant assets to make a will?

You do not need to be ‘wealthy’ or have lots of assets to make a will. As long as you have beneficiaries and want to ensure that whatever you own (be that a heirloom, bank account, property investment or something that you consider to be of value) goes to your chosen individuals, you must make a will to ensure those assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes.

Exceptions to intestacy?

The rules of intestacy would almost always apply, however as with all things there are possible exceptions to the rule.

It is possible, based on mutual agreement from all the beneficiaries (provided all the beneficiaries are 18 years and older) for a written agreement to be entered into varying the rules of intestacy. This mutual agreement must be entered into within two years of the date of death of the deceased and must be done legally by entering into a Deed of Variation. If any of the beneficiaries are minors , then an application to Court needs to be made. This is to ensure that the minor’s rights are always protected.

Case study

A recent case involved a couple who were cohabitees. The partner had unexpectedly died without leaving a will but it was verbally understood that the deceased’s estate would pass to his cohabitee partner. The law, however, stated that his estate should pass to his next of kin who in this case were his estranged parents. His partner was not entitled to a share of his estate.

The partner was financially dependent on the deceased and had to make an application to court for a financial reward. This came at a significant cost to the cohabitee partner, as well as the deceased’s estate incurring considerable legal fees and a delay in the administration of the estate.

For more information please about the importance of making a will and intestacy, contact us at pem@pem.co.uk.

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