When a person doesn’t leave a Will, their estate must be divided according to a strict set of rules, called ‘intestacy’ whereby only married couples, civil partners or close relatives are allowed to inherit or claim an estate.
The division of the estate according to intestacy might be an acceptable solution if you have a relatively small family, an uncomplicated family history, or you simply don’t mind if your spouse, civil partner or children will be the sole inheritors of the bulk of your estate.
However, more and more people are entering into first (or second) marriages with children from previous relationships, creating large blended families. Intestacy does not account for blended families, unmarried partners, complicated living situations, or other dependents.
Choosing to write a Will is the only way to ensure loved ones receive what you want them to upon your death.
If you don’t leave a Will, here’s what will happen
Under the rules of intestacy, your estate will be distributed in a specific order. Generally the distribution begins with your spouse, children and descendants, before expanding to other members of your family tree.
If you aren’t married or in a civil partnership then the estate will pass to your descendants first, followed by other close blood relatives. Full blood relatives will always be prioritised according to this system, followed by half-blood relatives. Keep in mind that your estate will never pass to a relative related to you only through marriage.
Who inherits under intestacy?
Under intestacy, your estate is passed onto your spouse and close blood relatives. In England and Wales this includes:
Your spouse or civil partner
Your children (including legally adopted children) and their children
Your siblings (including any half-siblings) and their children
Your parents and grandparents
Your uncles or aunts (full blood) and their children
Your uncles or aunts (half blood) and their children
If there is no living close member of your family, the estate is absorbed by the Crown and legally becomes ownerless property. This type of ownerless property is called ‘bona vacantia’ – this is complicated but it means it could end up with the Crown.
Who can’t inherit under intestacy?
The rules are old fashioned and don’t account for modern blended families and complex living situations.
Examples of loved ones who cannot inherit your estate under intestacy include:
An unmarried partner and their children
A step-child or step-children
A close friend
A financial dependent
You may be financially providing for a loved one or actively caring for them, but under intestacy they won’t be adequately provided for.
Our team are on hand to help you prepare your Will to ensure that your loved ones are protected with a legally binding document. Contact us on 0845 287 0939 or email us today.