Answers to frequently asked questions about the rules of intestacy
The rules of intestacy can result in unfair outcomes and leave people suffering financial hardship following the death of a loved one. If you find yourself in this position then please call our free legal helpline. We will let you know what your options are and whether no win, no fee funding is available. Call 0808 139 1599 or send us an email.
What are the rules of intestacy?
Intestacy is the legal term used when a person dies without having made a will. The rules of intestacy designate who is entitled to inherit the estate.
My late husband did not make a will. He has children with his ex-girlfriend and we have children of our own. Who will inherit his estate?
As his wife you will be entitled to your husband’s personal effects. Under the rules of intestacy you will also receive the “Statutory Legacy” of up to £270,000 (as from 6 February 2020). 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 cannot sell it and 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 won’t 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 rules of intestacy do not 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 Dependants) Act 1975. But don’t delay, you only have 6 months from the Grant to make a claim. Call our free legal helpline for guidance.
My wife has died and did not make a will. We owned our house as 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 rules of intestacy. However, if the property was jointly owned by you as ‘tenants in common’ then the legal situation will be quite different, so it’s very important that you establish what the terms of the joint ownership are and expert legal advice is recommended.
Why is a will so important?
A will provides certainty about who is entitled to inherit your estate. It 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. A will can also prevent expensive inheritance disputes arising.
How we can help
Despite all the benefits, a large number of people fail to make a will and die intestate every year. If this occurs and you are left facing financial hardship then we are here to help. Call our free legal helpline on 0808 139 1599 or send an email to us at [email protected]