What is intestacy?

When a person dies without a valid will, they are referred to as having died ‘intestate’ and their estate must be shared out according to the rules of intestacy.

Obviously, this is not an ideal situation. As well as potentially causing family members, cohabitees, friends and charities to miss out, it can also create headaches for those left behind to deal with the estate. With so many people without a will, this is a common occurrence.

If you do not have a will, you should strongly consider making one. It might seem like a morbid task but by making provision for your loved ones, this will give you the peace of mind of knowing that they will be taken care of after you are gone.

The rules of intestacy specify a strict order of who should benefit from the estate of an intestate person. This order is as follows:

  • Spouse or civil partner;
  • Children/grandchildren/great grandchildren;
  • Parents;
  • Siblings;
  • Half siblings;
  • Grandparents;
  • Uncles and aunts;
  • Half uncles and aunts.

The highest living relative will take priority. For example, if the deceased has a surviving spouse or civil partner, all of the estate will pass to them unless the value of the estate exceeds £270,000.

If the estate is worth more than this and the deceased leaves behind children, the spouse or civil partner will only receive all assets up to £270,000 together with the deceased’s personal possessions. Of the remaining estate, the spouse or civil partner will receive half and the balancing half will be divided between the deceased’s children or their grandchildren if the children have already died.

If there is no surviving spouse, civil partner or issue, the whole of the estate will go to the next highest relative in order of importance.

If a member of the relevant category dies before the intestate leaving issue (living at the intestate’s death), the issue take their deceased parent’s share. For example, if an intestate dies with no spouse or issue or parents but leaving surviving siblings and a sister that has pre-deceased him/her, any children of the deceased sister (that is, nieces and nephews of the intestate) who are living at the intestate’s death, take their deceased parent’s share equally.

If the deceased dies without any surviving relatives on this list, their estate will go to the Crown, a situation known as ‘bono vacantia’. A will can prevent this from happening.

For anything further, one of our specialists would be delighted to meet you either in our office or in your own home to talk through your requirements and answer any questions. Please contact us at any time.