When someone dies without writing a will, or where a will cannot be tracked, they are said to have died ‘intestate’. This means that their estate cannot be distributed in any way other than by following the laws of intestacy, as they have not indicated through their will who the beneficiaries should be. In this article we will explain what happens to an estate in this situation.
The laws of intestacy
There are two different types of intestacy; that of full or total intestacy, and partial intestacy. Total intestacy is when someone dies without a valid will in place and partial intestacy is when someone dies without properly disposing of all of their available assets.
Without beneficiaries being named in a will, the estate of a person will be distributed in accordance with the laws of intestacy. An estate includes property, money, investments, life insurance payments and vehicles, among other things, and in this scenario they will be distributed in a specific order.
First of all the spouse of the deceased has first rights to the estate. This includes civil partners but not unmarried partners who are living together. If no spouse or civil partner exists then their children will be next in line to become beneficiaries of the estate.
If the deceased had no children then the parents will inherit assets or siblings if there are no surviving parents. After blood related siblings half-brothers and sisters are next in line, followed by grandparents, uncles and aunts, half uncles and aunts and finally if there are no living relations then the estate will pass to the Crown.
This can vary depending on the circumstances, for example if a spouse and children of the deceased both survive then the estate will be distributed differently. If the deceased’s estate is worth less than £250,000 then the spouse will receive everything, however if it is worth any more than this then the spouse will receive only the first £250,000 while the rest will be passed on to the children of the deceased, which is known as a “statutory legacy”.
It can be a difficult for loved ones to have to see assets split up in a way different to how they believe the deceased would have wanted, which is why it is important to have a will written by an experienced solicitor. Partial intestacy can also be avoided by asking your solicitor to place a residuary gift in your will, which means that any assets that remain unaccounted for at the time of your death can be passed to charity or a nominated beneficiary.
Here at Rollingsons we are experienced in the specialist areas of probate and wills. For more information or to arrange an initial consultation, please contact us on 0207 7611 4848.