We all know how important it is to have a will, yet millions of us put it off and, in doing so, run the risk of the state determining how our assets should be distributed on our death.
Lawyers describe someone who passes away without a will as dying intestate.
It is the Intestacy Rules (set out in the Administration of Estates Act 1925) that determine who gets what if you die without making a will.
Here is a quick guide to the pecking order under the Intestacy Rules.
You are married (or in a civil partnership) and your estate is worth less than £250,000
Under the Intestacy Rules, your surviving spouse/civil partner gets everything.
You are married (or in a civil partnership), your estate is worth more than £250,000 but you don’t have any surviving parents or brothers/sisters (or their issue).
Again under the Intestacy Rules, your surviving spouse/civil partner gets it all.
You are married (or in a civil partnership), your estate is worth more than £250,000 and you have children.
Under the Intestacy Rules, it now starts to get interesting and potentially problematic for the surviving spouse/civil partner. The first £250,000 and the personal possessions will go to the spouse/civil partner but they will only get a life interest in half of whatever is left over. The other half will go to the children immediately with the rest following when the life interest ends on the death of the spouse/civil partner.
If any child should pre-decease you, then their own children (your grandchildren), would get their parent’s share and so on if a grandchild has predeceased etc
You are married (or in a civil partnership), your estate is worth more than £250,000, you don’t have children but you do have parents or brothers/sisters (or their issue).
Under the Intestacy Rules, the surviving spouse’s/civil partner’s automatic share goes up to £450,000 and they still receive the personal possessions. Half of anything left over also goes to the spouse/civil partner absolutely (i.e. it is not subject to a life interest). The other half goes to the surviving relatives in this order:
- Brothers or sisters (whole blood) or their children (or their children’s children etc)
You are not married (or in a civil partnership) but have children
Under the Intestacy Rules your children will inherit everything equally. Again, if a child has pre-deceased you, then their children will get their parent’s share (or children’s children etc)
You are not married (or in a civil partnership) and have no children
Under the Intestacy Rules, your surviving relatives will inherit in the following order:
- Brothers or sisters or their children (or children’s children etc)
- Half brother or sisters or their children (or children’s children etc)
- Uncles or aunts (brothers and sisters of the whole blood of a parent) or their children (or children’s children etc)
- Uncles and aunts (brothers and sisters of the half blood of a parent) or their children (or children’s children etc)
If you have no surviving spouse/civil partner, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, first cousins etc then under the Intestacy Rules, everything will go to the Crown!
- The Intestacy Rules do not recognise unmarried “common law” partners.
- The Intestacy Rules allow a 28 day survivorship period.
- To inherit under the Intestacy Rules a person needs to be aged 18 or over or have married earlier. If they inherit as a minor the gift will be held on trust for them until they reach the age of 18. If they do not reach the age of 18 (i.e. they either pre-decease as a minor or die before coming of age) the gift will revert to the persons entitled in the same class or the next class below if no such person in a same class exists.
- The effect of the Intestacy Rules can be inequitable and unfair, especially for surviving spouses. Surviving dependants may be entitled to seek more adequate provisions by making a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 or by seeking a discretionary grant from the Crown if the estate passes to the Crown.
- However, the best way of avoiding the unintended consequences of the Intestacy Rules is quite simply to make a will. It is easy to do and cheaper then you probably think.
If you require advice about the Intestacy Rules or would like to make a claim under the Inheritance Act for more adequate provision then contact us now.