Intestacy and how its rules affect you

“…I always assumed that the laws would take care of my youngest son if I died…it wasn’t until a friend recommended me to Carter Bond Wills that I understood I was wrong in assuming…”

If you don’t leave a Will then the law will step in and a rigid set of rules, known as the Intestacy Rules, will dictate what happens to your estate.

If you die without leaving a valid Will then the law will step in at this point too, deciding how your estate will be shared out, not the wishes expressed in the Will.

Making sure you properly understand the Rules of Intestacy that applies in England and Wales is our number one priority. We aim to put your mind at ease and remove this very common assumption that the law will properly take care of your child/ren or those in your guardianship. Sadly, that assumption still exists.

Navigating the strict rules that apply when someone dies without a valid Will is quite often disappointing. The rules often do not allow for modern family relationships, for example, unmarried or unregistered partners.

A surviving partner will not automatically inherit from you, if you die.

The only way to make it absolutely clear who should inherit your property and possessions after you pass away is by making a Will. If you don’t have a Will, they will have to make a valid inheritance claim instead, or the family who inherit can vary the distribution for your partner.

The rules don’t acknowledge step children

This is because the Rules of Intestacy only recognise natural relationships meaning that on intestacy, the surviving natural and adopted children will automatically inherit any of the property or possessions owned in the sole name of the deceased.

Married partners and civil partners

Married or civil partners inherit under the rules of intestacy, only if they are married or in a civil partnership at the time of death.

Partners who separated informally can still inherit under the rules of intestacy. Co-habiting partners (sometimes wrongly called ‘common-law’ partners) who were neither married nor in a civil partnership can’t inherit under the rules of intestacy.

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 partner will inherit:

1)    All the personal property of the person who has died, and

2)    The first £250,000 of the estate, and

3)    Half of the remaining estate.

What does this mean? Take a look at our case study

For example: Roshni was in a civil partnership with Rishi, and they adopted a daughter called Jia. Roshni died without leaving a Will. Her estate is worth £450,000. After Rishi inherits her share of £250,000, the estate that is left is worth £200,000. Rishi can have half of this – £100,000.

If there are no surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, the partner Will inherit:

1)    All the personal property and belongings of the person who has died, and

2)    The whole of the estate with interest from the date of death.

Does owning a property jointly matter to me?

You can own your home in two different ways. These are beneficial joint tenancies and tenancies in common.

If the partners were beneficial joint tenants at the time of the death, when the first partner dies, the surviving partner will automatically inherit the other partner’s share of the property. However, if the partners are tenants in common, the surviving partner does not automatically inherit the other person’s share.

For more information about beneficial joint tenancies and tenancies in common, speak to a member of our team to see if your will properly reflects how, you wish you estate to pass.

Couples may also have joint bank or building society accounts. If one dies, the other partner will automatically inherit the whole of the money.

Property and money that the surviving partner inherits does not count as part of the estate of the person who has died when it is being valued for the intestacy rules.

Case Study: Rishi and Roshni are married and own their flat jointly as beneficial joint tenants. They have a child called Jia. Rishi dies intestate leaving the jointly owned flat worth £300,000, and £50,000 in shares in his own name. The flat goes automatically to Roshni. This leaves an estate of £50,000 which also goes to Roshni, as it is worth less than £250,000. Jia inherits nothing.

If Rishi had owned the flat in his name alone, his estate would have been worth £350,000. It would be shared out according to the rules of intestacy, that is, Roshni would get the first £250,000. This leaves an estate of £100,000. Roshni would get £50,000 and Jia would get the remaining £50,000.

What about your close relatives and children?

To understand the implications of intestacy and how that affects your children, you can speak to our skilled advisers who can help you understand why it is better to arrange your Will now.

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