No Valid Last Will: the rules of intestacy.
The Rules of Intestacy apply when someone dies without leaving a valid Will. Their property must be shared out according to the set rules. A person who dies without a Will is said to have died intestate. The effect of these rules is that only married or civil partners and some other very close relatives can inherit under the rules of intestacy.
If someone makes a Will but it is not set up correctly, or is lost, the rules of intestacy dictate how the estate will be shared, whatever they may have actually wanted to happen. Which is usually disastrous in the case of unmarried couples where the end result may be Court action.
Married couples or civil partners inherit under the rules of intestacy only if they are actually married or in a civil partnership when they die. Once once the divorce is completed does the entitlement under the rules end.
If there are surviving children, grandchildren or great grandchildren of the person who died and the estate is valued at more than £250,000, the widow/widower or civil partner will inherit:
the personal property and belongings of the person who has died. Plus
the first £250,000 of the estate, and
half of the remaining estate.
If there are no surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, the partner will inherit the whole estate.
Couples may jointly own their home. There are two different ways of jointly owning a home. These are beneficial joint tenancies (as if both own all of the house) and tenancies in common (where the house is owned in shares). So:
Beneficial Joint Tenants (whether married or not) the surviving partner will automatically inherit the other partner’s share of the property.
Tenants in Common, the surviving partner does not automatically inherit the other person’s share.
Couples may also have joint bank or building society accounts. If one dies, the other partner will automatically inherit the whole of the money in most cases.
Property and money that the surviving partner inherits automatically does not count as part of the estate of the person who has died when it is being valued for the intestacy rules.
Children of the intestate person will inherit if there is no surviving married or civil partner. If there is a surviving partner, they will inherit only if the estate is worth more than a certain amount.
If there is no surviving partner, the children of a person who has died without leaving a will inherit the whole estate. This applies however much the estate is worth. If there are two or more children, the estate will be divided equally between them.
If there is a surviving partner, a child only inherits from the estate if the estate is valued at over £250,000. If there are two or more children, the children will inherit in equal shares:
one half of the value of the estate above £250,000.
All the children of the parent who has died intestate inherit equally from the estate. This also applies where a parent has children from different relationships.
A child whose parents are not married or have not registered a civil partnership can inherit from the estate of a parent who dies intestate. These children can also inherit from grandparents or great-grandparents who have died intestate.
Adopted children (including step-children who have been adopted by their step-parent) have rights to inherit under the rules of intestacy. But otherwise you have to be a biological child to inherit, though recent changes make the situation more complex.
Children do not receive their inheritance immediately. They receive it when they reach the age of 18, or before that if they marry or form a civil partnership. Until then, trustees manage the inheritance on their behalf.
A grandchild or great grandchild cannot inherit from the estate of an intestate person unless either:
their parent or grandparent has died before the intestate person. Or
their parent is alive when the intestate person dies but dies before reaching the age of 18 without having married or formed a civil partnership.
Then, the grandchildren and great grandchildren will inherit equal shares of the share to which their parent or grandparent would have been entitled.
Parents, brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews of the intestate person may inherit under the rules of intestacy. This will depend on a number of circumstances:
whether there is a surviving married or civil partner.
Whether there are children, grandchildren or great grandchildren.
In the case of nephews and nieces, whether the parent directly related to the person who has died is also dead.
the amount of the estate.
Other relatives may a right to inherit if the person who died intestate had no surviving married partner or civil partner, children, grandchildren, great grand-children, parents, brothers, sisters, nephews or nieces. The order of priority amongst other relatives is as follows:-
uncles and aunts. A cousin can inherit instead if the uncle or aunt who would have inherited died before the intestate person.
half-uncles and half-aunts. A half-cousin can inherit instead if the half-uncle or half-aunt who would have inherited died before the intestate person.
lesbian or gay partners not in a civil partnership.
relations by marriage e.g. son in law, brother in law, father in law.
However, even if you can’t inherit under the rules of intestacy, you may be able to apply to court for financial provision from the estate.
No relevant surviving relatives.
Then the estate passes to the Crown. This is known as bona vacantia. The Treasury Solicitor is then responsible for dealing with the estate. The Crown can make grants from the estate but does not have to agree to them.
If you are not a surviving relative, but you believe you have a good reason to apply for a grant, you will need legal advice.
For more information about bona vacantia click the link and go to the Government site.