Intestacy Rules: Questions and Answers

What does ‘Intestacy’ mean?

Intestacy is the legal term used when a person dies without having made a will. The Rules of Intestacy designate who is entitled to the estate.

My late husband did not make a will.  He has children with his ex-girlfriend and we have children of our own.  He had some  investments and a collection of antiques. Who will inherit his estate?

As his wife you will be entitled to your husband’s personal effects, including the antiques.  Under the Intestacy Rules you will also receive the “Statutory Legacy” of up to £250,000. This is free of tax but it includes interest. You will receive a ‘life interest’ in one half of the residue of your husband’s estate and the four children will all be entitled to an equal share of the other half of the residue.

What is a ‘life interest’?

A Life Interest is a legacy where the recipient is entitled to have the benefit of the asset during their lifetime but on their death it passes to someone else . You can have a life interest in money (when you can use the income but can’t touch the capital) or property (when you can live in the property or rent it out but can’t sell it and keep the proceeds).

We are not married but have lived together for 10 years and have young children.  Do we need wills?

Yes, you should definitely both make a will.  The Rules of Intestacy do not provide for cohabiting partners.  So, if your partner dies before you then his estate will go to his next of kin, ie the children and you wont be entitled to a penny.  If you both make a will you can decide who to leave your estate to and also appoint guardians for your children.

The Intestacy Rules fail to make adequate financial provision for me. Is there anything I can do?

Possibly. If you are a spouse, a cohabitee, a child or someone who was supported by the deceased then you may be able to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975. But don’t delay, you only have 6 months from the Grant to make a claim.

My wife has died and did not make a will.  We owned our house as beneficial joint tenants.  Will I get the house?

Yes.  The property will pass directly to you under the rules of survivorship. Joint property is not included in the estate for distribution either under a will or under the Intestacy Rules.

My husband and I do not have children.  However, my husband’s father is still alive.  Who would inherit my husband’s estate if he died without making a will?

You would be entitled to a Statutory Legacy of £450,000, plus interest. The residue of your husband’s estate will be shared equally between yourself and your father-in-law.

Why is a will so important?

It provides certainty as to who should inherit your estate and can also help limit the Inheritance Tax liability payable on your death. This means more of your assets go to your loved ones and less to the Taxman.