The rules of intestacy – What happens if you die without a Will?
- Wills, Trusts & Probate
- 13th Nov 2023
A Will is one of the most important documents you will ever write and allows you to decide what happens to your money, property and possessions after your death. Failing to make a Will can cause chaos and disruption to your family or dependents and in the absence of a Will there is no guarantee […]
By Samantha KennedyMLP Law
A Will is one of the most important documents you will ever write and allows you to decide what happens to your money, property and possessions after your death. Failing to make a Will can cause chaos and disruption to your family or dependents and in the absence of a Will there is no guarantee that your money and property will pass in accordance with your wishes. An up-to-date Will provides you with the security that your wishes are complied with and provides your family and friends ease of dealing with your estate following death.
This article will discuss what happens if you die without a Will and explains who will inherit from your estate.
What happens if you die without a Will?
In England and Wales, if you die without writing a Will, your estate will be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules as contained in the Administration of Estates Act 1925. In the absence of the Will, you are classed as dying intestate.
The rules are complex and can change depending on your individual circumstances when you die. This means that your estate may not pass in accordance with your instructions and can cause great problems following death.
Who would inherit under the rules of intestacy?
The beneficiaries will vary depending on your surviving relatives and we have provided an overview of the provisions below and the order which applies.
- Married couples or civil partners:
- If the deceased died leaving a spouse or civil partner at the time of their death, that person will inherit everything.
- If there is a spouse or civil partner, together with children, grandchildren or great grandchildren, then the spouse or civil partner will only receive the first £322,000 plus half of the remaining balance of the estate and the personal possessions. The other half of the remaining balance of your estate will go to your children.
If there is no surviving spouse or civil partner, the children of the deceased will inherit the entire estate, and if more than one in equal shares. Adopted children have the right to inherit under the rules of intestacy.
Stepchildren will not receive anything under the rules of intestacy unless they have been legally adopted.
If you die without leaving a spouse/civil partner or children, and your parents survive you, then they will inherit the estate and if more than one, in equal shares.
If none of the above survive you, your brothers and sisters will inherit in equal shares. If a sibling has predeceased you, their children will inherit the share that they would have received.
If none of the above survive you, your half-brothers and half-sisters will inherit in equal shares. If a half-sibling has predeceased you, their children will inherit the share that they would have received.
If none of the above survive you, and your grandparents have survived you, they will inherit the estate in equal shares.
- Aunties and uncles:
If your grandparents predecease you, any Aunties and Uncles that you have in both your maternal and paternal lines, will inherit in equal shares. If an Auntie or Uncle has predeceased you, their share will pass to any children that they have.
- Half-Aunties and Half-Uncles:
Provided that all the above have predeceased you, then any half Aunties or Uncles will inherit in equal shares. Again, if any have predeceased you, their share will pass to any children they leave.
- The Crown:
If there are no surviving relatives, as set out above, your estate will pass to the Crown. This is known as bon vacantia.
Who cannot inherit?
The intestacy rules enforce a fixed order of beneficiaries in an estate and there are certain people who have no right to inherit where someone dies without leaving a Will:
- Unmarried partners or cohabitees
- Relations by marriage
- Close friends
Seeking Legal Advice
A Will is such an important part of planning for your future and it is the simplest way to protect your estate from passing in accordance with the intestacy rules. It is also important to review any existing Wills to ensure that they are valid and up to date with any changes in circumstances.
A Will provides you with peace of mind and security that your wishes are complied with and that you have simplified the process for your loved ones. Our specialist team are experts and able to take you through the process, tailoring the service specifically to your needs and advise on all suitable areas.
About the expert
Stephen is the Owner of MLP Law and leads our Commercial, IP and Dispute Resolution teams which provide advice on all aspects of the law relating to mergers, acquisitions, financing, re-structuring, complex commercial contracts, standard trading terms, share options, shareholder and partnership agreements, commercial dispute resolution, joint venture and partnering arrangements, IT and Technology law, Intellectual Property, EU and competition law, Brexit and GDPR.
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