21 August 2023

The Rules Of Intestacy

The Rules of Intestacy dispose of a person’s estate in England and Wales on their death if it has not been disposed of by their will.

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The Rules of Intestacy dispose of a person’s estate in England and Wales on their death if it has not been disposed of by their will.

When we use the word ‘estate’ what is meant is what that person owned and could have retrieved themselves just before they had died. This means that policies that pay out only because of the death, such as life insurance policies, are not part of the ‘estate’.

The Rules of Intestacy also apply when there is no valid will.

The law passes the undisposed of estate to certain categories of person, under the Rules of Intestacy.

If the deceased was married or in a civil partnership at their death and had children (this would include children adopted by the deceased) then the spouse/civil partner would inherit the deceased’s personal items, a sum up to £322,000 and half the remaining estate, and the children would inherit the remaining half, when they attain majority (the age of 18). If there were no children the spouse/civil partner would inherit everything.

As referred to above, the Rules of Intestacy can apply when there is no will at all but also when a will fails to adequately dispose of the estate of the deceased. For example, the deceased may have specifically left a chattel or sum of money (known as a specific bequest and pecuniary legacy respectively) to an individual but that said individual may have died before the deceased and the will contained no proviso or contingency for this eventuality. That item or sum of money would then pass under the said Rules.

The close blood relatives of the deceased may also not know if a valid will is in existence, and have to then attempt to conduct a search and make reasonable enquiries. This can be an added stress to what is already a very difficult time for the relatives of the deceased.

Who can inherit?

It appears to be a belief of some that a ‘common law spouse’ has the same rights available to them as though they were the actual spouse / civil partner, and sometimes the next of kin of the deceased may believe that they have immediate legal rights to deal with the estate of the deceased. Both these beliefs have no basis in English Law, indeed a next of kin may have no legal standing on death.

Another common belief we encounter is that if there is no valid will and no next of kin ‘the government takes the money’. In practice, the deceased’s estate reverting to the Crown seldom occurs.

Referring back to the Rules of Intestacy, and the categories of persons to inherit, if there is no spouse or children then the estate would pass to the deceased’s parents, if none, the deceased’s siblings of the whole blood, or their own children (or ‘issue’) if the said sibling of the deceased died before the deceased, leaving children. If there are no siblings then the deceased’s estate passes to aunts and uncles and so on.

In our experience, no matter how much of a ‘nomad’ a deceased appears to have been with seemingly no living relatives at all, there are always living relatives, albeit possibly very remote, that inherit.

However, why leave this to chance? We would always recommend that you make a will and keep it under review, and inform your loved ones and your chosen executors as to its location.

Don’t delay, organise your will today

At Kew Law we can work with you to ensure that your will reflects your wishes. Please contact us to arrange to speak to one of our friendly team in the first instance or to arrange a consultation.

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0800 987 8156