The Intestacy Rules
If you die without leaving a valid Will, this means you have died intestate. If this occurs your estate must be divided and distributed in accordance with the rules of intestacy which are complex and specify who can administer your estate, who will inherit and how much they are to receive.
It is easy to assume that your estate will simply pass to your loved ones, but this is not always the case. You cannot take it for granted that everything will automatically go to your surviving partner or your closest relatives.
What the Rules of Intestacy do not cover
The Intestacy Rules were first enacted in 1925 and do not cater for certain family relationships that today are commonplace:
- Unmarried Couples and people who live together
Your surviving partner will not inherit any assets in your sole name when you die
- Step children
Intestacy only recognises natural and adopted children. Step children will not benefit unless you have made provision in a Will
- Step parents and step brothers or sisters
Again these relationships are not acknowledged by the Intestacy Rules. Provision needs to be made within your Will so that they can benefit
In addition, the Rules of Intestacy do not provide for any gifts to friends or to charity, nor do they allow any distinction to be made between relatives who inherit. Under the Rules of Intestacy any inheritance is at 18, your Will can specify the age a beneficiary receives their entitlement.
You can only guarantee that your estate goes to the people you want by writing a Will.
Who can administer your estate if you do not have a Will
Even if you die without leaving a Will someone still needs to be appointed to administer your estate. Nothing can legally be sold or transferred before a Grant of Representation has been issued by the Courts.
A Will enables you to choose who you wish to deal with your affairs when you die. In the absence of a Will, the appointment of an Administrator must follow a strict order of priority set by the Intestacy Rules, being:
- Surviving spouse or registered civil partner (not common law spouse or partner)
If you are dealing with an estate and have any doubts about who can apply for a Grant of Representation and what needs to be done next, please contact us for advice.
How is an estate distributed when there is no Will
The Intestacy Rules dictate who will inherit your estate if you die without leaving a Will.
The Rules are complicated and many potential mistakes can be made if they are misinterpreted. You cannot rely on the assumption that everything will pass to your surviving spouse or closest relatives. In the majority of cases it is important that the family tree is understood in detail to apply the Rules correctly. It is the duty of the estate Administrator to ensure that errors are not made when the assets of an estate are distributed.
For details of the currents rules of inheritance under an intestacy, please follow the link below:
If you have any doubts about who benefits from an estate, we can help guide you through the process.
Contact us now for advice if you are dealing with an intestacy, or help writing your Will to avoid the problems dying intestate can cause.
A well drafted professional Will provides certainty that you are making the decisions about what happens to your money, property and possessions when you die.