What is Intestacy – Who inherits if you die without a will?

What is Intestacy – Who inherits if you die without a will?

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The rules of intestacy will come into effect if someone dies in England and Wales without having a valid will. If someone makes a will, but it is not legally valid, the rules of intestacy decide how the estate will be shared out, not the wishes expressed in the will.

The Intestacy rule also comes into effect if someone dies with a will but doesn’t allocate their entire estate. In partial intestacies, the rules apply only to the distribution of property that is not included in the will.

If you die without a will it can become a very complex situation, and your wishes for your estate may not be upheld. Your estate is divided as per government law laid out in the Intestacy rules. There is an excellent tool on the GOV.UK website to help work out who is eligible to inherit.

Intestacy rules – Married partners and civil partners

If there are surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren of the person who died, the partner will inherit:

All the personal property and belongings of the person who has died, and

  • The first £270,000 of the estate, and half of the remaining estate.

  • The children will recieve an equal share of the rest of the estate.

If there are no surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, the partner will inherit all the personal property, belongings and whole estate of the person who has died.

In the case where couples have joint bank or building society accounts if one of them dies, the other partner will automatically inherit the whole of the money in the account.

Concerning property, if it is jointly owned (beneficial joint tenancies), then the partner or spouse will automatically inherit the remaining share of the property from the deceased. This is not part of the estate.

Intestacy rules – Children

If there are no surviving married partners (or civil partnership) the children will inherit the whole estate, adopted and direct children will inherit from the estate, step-children will not.

If there is a surviving partner, then the children will only inherit a portion of the estate over £270,000.

Children do not receive their inheritance immediately. They can only receive it when they reach 18 or marry (or form a civil partnership) under this age. A trustee is appointed to manage the inheritance on their behalf until this time.

Intestacy rules – Grandchildren and great-grandchildren

The only way a grandchild or great-grandchild can inherit from the estate under intestacy rules is if their parent or grandparent has died before the intestate person. In this case, the grandchild or great-grandchild will inherit the share (or part of it) that their parent would have been entitled to.

Intestacy rules – Other relatives

If there are no surviving partners, children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, other close relatives will inherit. Parents followed by brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews can be eligible.

If there are no surviving direct relatives, then grandparents, aunties and uncles and cousins are set to inherit the estate.

Only direct blood relatives can inherit under Intestacy rules. Relatives by marriage are not included.

Intestacy rules – no surviving relatives

If there are no surviving relatives who inherit under the rules of intestacy, the entire estate goes to the Crown. This is called bona vacantia. The Treasury Solicitor is responsible for dealing with the estate. The Crown can make grants from the estate but does not have to agree to them.

If you are not a surviving relative but believe you have a good reason to apply for a grant the best thing is to seek legal advice.

Exceptions to the rules

  • To be a beneficiary, a husband, wife or civil partner must have survived the deceased by 28 days.
  • If partners were not married or in a civil partnership at the time of death they have no automatic right to inherit under the rule of intestacy.
  • Adopted sons and daughters are classified as the deceased children.
  • Step-children are not classed as your children under the intestacy rules.

Having a legally valid will in place is the only way you can ensure your estate gets divided the way you wish. Contact us today for help in setting up your will or to book an appointment with our expert team.

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