INTESTATE: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DIE WITHOUT LEAVING A WILL

It’s not a subject many of us like to discuss, but like its equally unpleasant counterpart – taxes – death is unavoidable. Hence the importance of drawing up a will that accurately details your wishes as to what happens to your estate when you die. When a person dies intestate, or without leaving a valid last will and testament, it can leave a plethora of legal complications.

This includes extra taxes on your estate, the fact that your estate may not be distributed how you would have wanted, not to mention immeasurable heartache to family, friends and loved ones. And worst case scenario, if you die intestate, and have no living relatives, the Crown gets all your money.

Who Can Inherit In Intestacy?

Under The Rules of Intestacy, married or civil partners in the relationship at the time of death will inherit. If your assets are valued at under £250,000, your partner inherits everything, even if you have children. If your estate is valued at more than £250,000, the remainder of the estate will be divided in half, with half being awarded to the spouse and the other half being divided equally between any remaining children.

If you have no children, and no spouse, any surviving relatives will inherit the estate in equal measure, and in this order:

Parents
Brothers or sisters – or if deceased, their progeny
Half brothers or sisters – or if deceased, their progeny
Grandparents
Uncles or aunts – or if deceased, their progeny

Who Cannot Inherit In Intestacy?

Divorced or legally separated partners cannot make claims on the estate, although those informally separated but still legally married can.
Common Law (legally unmarried) partners have no rights under the Rules of Intestacy.
Lesbian or gay partners not in a civil partnership cannot make claims on your estate under the intestacy rules.
Full time or part time medical carers, are not entitled to claim.

Bona Vacantia

The term means ‘vacant goods’ and by law if there are no surviving relatives who can make a legal claim under The Rules of Intestacy, then the estate passes to the Crown, and is subsequently administered by the Treasury Solicitor.

While The Rules of Intestacy may seem a little unfair, especially if you are a child of someone who has died without leaving a will, or a common law spouse who has been with the deceased for a long time. There are avenues, however to apply to court for some financial award. There are certain limitations and time constraints and each case is individual so you will need to seek legal advice.

Obviously, in times of bereavement, the last thing your loved ones need to deal with is the legalities of intestacy. It’s never too early to make a will, and it can be surprisingly straightforward. To find out more about wills, probates and inheritance, visit gov.uk

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