If you die without making a Will, it is possible that those you care most about will not benefit from your estate after your death. Similarly, if a family member dies without making a will, then you may not inherit from their estate.
Dying without a will is known as dying “Intestate.”
What does “Intestate” mean?
An intestate estate arises if a deceased person has not made a will. The estate (property, money, personal belongings etc.) is distributed in accordance with the law, which may not be in accordance with their wishes.
These rules may also apply if there is a Will in place, but is declared as invalid for some reason, such as incapacity or undue influence. If there is not a previous valid Will already in place, the distribution of the estate will be determined by the rules of Intestacy.
Who can inherit?
Under the rules of Intestacy, there is a category of family members who are entitled to inherit from the estate, which will depend upon whether or not the deceased person was married, and had children at the date of death, and also upon the size of the estate.
If the person who dies is married
Couples who are married or in a civil partnership are able to inherit under the rules of Intestacy. If you are divorced, or your civil partnership has been dissolved, or you are merely co-habiting, you do not have any entitlement to the estate.
However, married couples and civil partners who are only informally separated will still be classed as married until the marriage/civil partnership is dissolved.
If the person who has died has children as well as a surviving spouse, then the spouse will inherit:
- The first £250,000 of the estate, as well as half of the remainder of the estate
- All of the deceased’s personal possessions and belongings (“known as personal chattels”)
Any assets owned jointly will pass automatically “by survivorship” to the surviving joint owner.
However, if the deceased has no children, the surviving spouse will inherit the entire estate.
If the person who dies has children
If the deceased has children, then they will be eligible to inherit from the estate in equal shares upon attaining the age of 18. If the deceased also has a spouse, the children will only inherit from the estate if it is worth over £250,000. If the estate is worth less than £250,000.00, the children will not receive anything. If the estate is worth more than £250,000, then the children will inherit half of the remaining estate over and above the £250,000 threshold, in equal shares. If the estate was worth £300,000, for example, the children would inherit £25,000, equally, and the remaining £25,000 will pass to the surviving spouse.
Who can not inherit?
The following people will have no right to inherit from the deceased person’s estate. These people would have had to have been named in the Will in order to receive a benefit from the estate:
- Unmarried partners including LGBTQ+ partners
- Relations by marriage
- Close friends
What if there are no surviving relatives?
If there are no surviving blood relatives, the estate will pass to the Crown. This is known as a ‘bona vacantia’ estate. The Government Legal Department (formerly known as ‘The Treasury Solicitor’s Department) is responsible for dealing with these estates.
Making a will
To avoid an Intestacy, it is important to make a will to ensure that your family and loved ones will be provided for after your death, and for your own piece of mind.
How can I find out more information?
If you would like to discuss any of the above or to find out more information, please contact us on 0800 614 722 to speak to one of our specialist legal professionals, or visit our local office.