Intestacy is the legal word used to describe where someone dies without making a valid Will. Rules have been developed to deal with the situation where no Will can be found. The rules also apply to the situation where a Will is held to be invalid (because of a lack of capacity for example) and no earlier Will exists.
The rules often have undesirable consequences, particularly where someone would want to leave a particular legacy to someone in particular, or where a part of a family is estranged and they would not have otherwise benefited had a Will been made.
Where there is a surviving spouse, they receive all the personal possessions and £250,000 and half of the remaining estate once debts have been paid. If there are children (or grandchildren etc.), the children receive the other half of the remaining estate in equal shares. If there are no children, the surviving spouse receives everything.
Where there is no surviving spouse, the children receive the estate on something called the statutory trusts. If there are no children there is a list of classes of people who would receive the whole of the estate. There is a particular order and each group of people would only receive the estate if there was no one found in the group above them. The list is:
- parents equally,
- siblings (or children of siblings if the sibling has died during the lifetime of the deceased),
- half siblings (or their children if the sibling has died during the lifetime of the deceased),
- grandparents equally,
- aunts and uncles (or their children if the sibling has died during the lifetime of the deceased),
- half-aunts and half-uncles (or their children if the sibling has died during the lifetime of the deceased)
If there is no one found in any of these groups of people, then the estate goes to the Crown.
Different rules apply if the deceased died before 1 October 2014.
The most frequent types of claims which arise in these situations are Inheritance Act claims and Promissory Estoppel .
Making a Will gives you the peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out and that those who you would like to benefit from your death, do.
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