What if someone dies intestate?

Intestate means without a will and as many as 36% of people in Britain over the age of 55 have not written a will according to Law Society research from 2014. Not having a will can cause all kinds of complications for the surviving relatives of the deceased person although there is a set of rules that dictate what must happen in those circumstances.

The advice for everyone is that you should make a will. It is best to get the help of a solicitor in drawing up a will – a will that is not formulated according to the law and properly witnessed has no legitimacy.

When a person dies intestate, their property, money and possessions will be divided up among close relatives. The first person to have a call on the deceased’s estate is the surviving spouse or civil partner. A spouse must have been married to the deceased at the time of death – if you have divorced you will not be entitled to inherit. Civil partners must not have legally ended the civil partnership – again they will not be entitled to inherit if this is the case.

If there are no children, grandchildren or great grandchildren of the deceased, the spouse or civil partner will inherit the whole estate whatever the value. If the deceased does have surviving descendants then the spouse or civil partner will inherit all of the deceased’s possessions and property and the first £250,000 in cash plus half of the remaining estate. The rest of the estate will be inherited by the children, grandchildren or great grandchildren.

If there is jointly owned property and joint bank accounts, then the spouse or civil partner will inherit those in their entirety. Jointly owned property and joint bank accounts do not count towards the calculations for distributing the deceased’s property, possessions and cash under the intestacy rules.

If the deceased has no surviving spouse or civil partner, the estate will go to any children, with each child getting an equal share. If there is a surviving spouse or civil partner, the children will inherit equal shares of the estate after the intestacy rules have been applied in favour of the spouse or civil partner.

If a child’s parents were not married or in a civil partnership, he or she is still entitled to inherit from the estate and they can also inherit from parents or grandparents who have died without a will. This includes adopted children although step-children are only entitled to inherit if they have been formally adopted by their step-parent.

Children cannot receive an inheritance until they reach the age of 18 or if they marry or enter a civil partnership when they are younger than 18. A child’s inheritance is managed by trustees until they are old enough to inherit.

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