Wills are important because they explain who inherit the estates of their writers once they die. But, this document has a relative value since it is largely dependent on the unique circumstances of the person who writes it. However, if you die without a valid will, the assets you leave behind might not be distributed according to your wishes.
Basically, if there is no valid will, it’s presumed that a person died intestate. Consequently, their estate is automatically passed on to the Crown or State. The rules of intestacy determine how their estate is shared out. Obviously, this is most likely not how you would like your estate to be distributed. For this reason, it’s important to make a valid will while alive to ensure that your estate goes to your preferred persons.
What’s more, dying without a valid will can mean that your family members, close friends, or organisations will miss out on the property you would like to leave behind for them. The situation can also cause headaches among your loved ones. Unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence for people to die without a will.
Rules of Intestacy
The rules of intestacy are often harsh because they do not now allow for some relationships in modern families. For instance, these rules do not have provisions for unregistered and unmarried partners. This implies that when you die intestate, your surviving partner won’t inherit the possessions and property you owned in your sole name. Consequently, your partner has to make an inheritance claim or your family can vary their distribution legally on intestacy to provide for your partner.
Only biological and adopted children are recognised by the rules of intestacy for inheritance purposes. Step children may also not be acknowledged by these rules. Nevertheless, they can file a valid claim in some cases. As such, only wills make clear who inherit the possessions and properties of deceased persons. Here are some of the people who inherit if there is no valid will.
Civil Partners and Married Partners
The rules of intestacy state that only spouses in a civil or married partnership when a person dies can inherit their possessions and properties. This means that if your civil partnership had already come to a legal end or you were divorced when your spouse died, you can’t inherit their possessions and property.
But, if you had an informal separation, you can still inherit their possessions and properties. Common-law partners or cohabiting partners who are neither in a civil partnership nor marriage can’t inherit as per the rules of intestacy.
When the deceased person has surviving children, grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren and the estate’s value exceeds £250,000 the partner can inherit the following:
- All personal belongings and property of the deceased.
- The first £250,000 of the deceased person’s estate.
- Half of the estate which remains.
If the deceased person doesn’t have surviving children, grandchildren or even great grandchildren, the partner inherits the following:
- All personal belongings and property of the deceased.
- The entire estate and interest from the time of death.
If the deceased doesn’t have a surviving civil or married partner, children inherit the possessions and properties of the deceased. But, if a surviving partner exists, children inherit only if the deceased’s estate worth exceeds a certain amount.
On the other hand, children inherit the entire estate if a person dies without a will and no surviving partner exists. However, this applies as per the worth of the estate. If the deceased left behind several children, the estate is divided equally among them.
If the deceased left behind a surviving partner, children inherit only when the estate’s value is more than £250,000. Where there is more than one child, they all inherit equal shares. This applies even when the deceased person leaves behind children from several relationships.
When parents are not married or their civil partnership is not registered children can also inherit from a deceased person’s estate if no will exists. They can also inherit from their grandparents and great grandparents who die intestate.
The rules of intestacy give adopted, including step-children adopted by parents, the right to inherit. But otherwise, children have to be biological to inherit their parents.
A child receives inheritance upon attaining the age of 18 years, marrying, or forming a civil partnership at the legally acceptable age. Until this time, their inheritance is managed by their trustees on their behalf.
Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren
Grandchildren and great-grandchildren inherit in cases where there are no wills under the following conditions:
- The parent or grandparent passed on before an intestate person.
- Their parent was alive at the time of the death of the intestate person but dies before attaining the age of 18 years without entering a civil partnership or marriage.
Under these conditions, grandchildren and great-grandchildren inherit equal shares of the divided share of what their parent or grandparent would have otherwise inherited.
Where there are no wills, the rules of intestacy allow parents, sisters, brothers, nephews and sisters the right to inherit.
But, this depends on the following circumstances:
- Whether a surviving civil or married partner exists.
- Whether children, grandchildren or even great grandchildren exist.
- Whether the deceased’s parent is also dead in the case of nieces and nephews.
The rules of intestacy allows other relatives to inherit if there is no surviving civil partner, married partner, children, parents, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, great grandchildren, nieces or nephews.
Priority is given to other relatives in the following order:
- Aunts and uncles- The inheritance can go to a cousin if the aunt or uncle who would have otherwise inherited the asset died before an intestate person.
- Half aunts and half uncles- The inheritance can go to half-cousins if the half aunt or half uncle who would have otherwise inherited died before an interstate individual.
Clearly, the administrator of an estate has to figure out who the real beneficiaries are as per the rules of intestacy. This is the only way to ensure that the estate of the deceased is distributed accordingly. Overall, the rules of intestacy are created with the aim of ensuring that the next of kin of the deceased persons gets priority where there are no wills.