What Could Intestacy Mean for Your Family?

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Tom Pettman


Phone 01264 325810

Email tpettman@bsandi.co.uk

When a person dies without having made a Will, the question of who inherits the estate, needs to be examined.

Everything owned by the deceased person needs to be dealt with. Their property, money, investments, personal possessions must be allocated. But, with no will to indicate the deceased’s wishes, the law dictates how this should be done.

This is called intestacy. It is a situation in which some families find themselves either because a loved one didn’t make a Will or because the Will they made is invalid (perhaps it wasn’t properly witnessed, for example).

The rules of intestacy set out who is entitled to inherit from the deceased’s estate, and the order in which they may do so. This can lead to outcomes that may not have been anticipated or wanted. Perhaps the most significant of these relates to the position of the cohabiting partner of the deceased: if the deceased was not married to, or in a civil partnership with, their partner, that partner will not inherit under the rules of intestacy. It is a very good reason (among others) for cohabitees to put Wills in place, assuming they would want their partner to benefit from the things they leave behind.  

The rules are kinder to married couples and civil partners. Unless there are children, the surviving spouse or civil partner would usually inherit everything. If there are children, the spouse or civil partner inherits up to £270,000 (this is increasing to £322,000 later this month) worth of assets and all personal possessions, sharing any remainder of the estate with their child/children. If there isn’t a surviving spouse or civil partner, the children inherit everything.

Other relatives – parents of the deceased, for example – are next in line to inherit, but this will hinge on there being no surviving spouse, civil partner, children or other descendants.

That is a brief guide to some of the basics. The rules are specific and need to be carefully applied to each family’s situation. Intestacy is best avoided, not least because it can lead to a situation in which the long-term partner of the deceased receives nothing by virtue of not having been their spouse or civil partner.

How to resolve this, make a Will – particularly if you are in a relationship that’s not a marriage or a civil partnership. It will mean you’re setting out exactly who you would like to benefit from your estate after your death. And, as long as you keep this under review over the years, it should lead to the ‘right’ outcome.

To find out more about anything relating to Wills and inheritance, or specifically about making a Will, contact us on 01264 353411 or at probate@bsandi.co.uk

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