Intestacy! Do You Know The Rules?

When an individual passes away without having made a legal will they are known as an intestate person. In the UK there are a strict set of rules that govern how that persons estate is divided, known as the Intestacy Rules. They were originally set out in 1925, as part of the Administration of Estates Act and reformed by the Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act 2014. The amendments were made to bring these largely out-dated rules in line with modern day life and to simplify the process involved in the division of assets. As of October 2014 the following rules governing who receives the inheritance apply:

Married couples and civil partners

There is a common, incorrect, assumption that when someone dies intestate everything automatically goes to their spouse or civil partner. This is not always the case however, it depends on whether children are involved or not. If the intestate person has no children, the spouse or partner will inherit the entire estate. If there are children though, the first £250,000 will go to the spouse/partner and the rest will be divided, half straight to the spouse/partner and half to be shared amongst the children. In the event of there being any pre-deceased children their share would go to their children.

Not married or in a civil partnership

In the case of there being no surviving spouse or civil partner the entire state would be divided between the deceaseds children, should they have any. If there are no children there is a clear pecking order deciding which relatives inherit the estate, which is as follows:

Parents
Siblings
Grandparents
Aunts and Uncles
No surviving relatives ? everything goes to the Crown

Who is not entitled to inheritance?

In the event of there being no will the Intestate Rules follow very strict guidelines, regardless of any verbal agreements or intentions. Unless a legal will is in place, only spouses, civil partners and blood relatives can be part of the process; friends, colleagues, carers, partners who are not married or in a civil partnership and relations through marriage will not be entitled to any of the estate. The exception to the rules is adopted children who, under the new rules, are treated equally with biological children.

The Intestacy Rules small print

  • In order for a spouse or civil partner to inherit the deceaseds estate they must survive them by 28 days.
    Unmarried or common law partners are not recognised.
  • If a surviving spouse feels that the rules have not given them a fair and equitable share of the estate, they can make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. If the estate has passed to the Crown, they can make a claim to the Crown for a discretionary grant.
  • In order to inherit you must be over 18 or have married before the age of 18. The inheritance will be held in a trust until the inheritor turns 18 if inheriting before that age.

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