The Perils Of Intestacy
The majority of adults in the UK do not have a Will – a recent survey found that 58% of all adults, and 74% of all cohabiting couples, have yet to draft Wills.
Dying Without A Will
Dying without a Will, or “intestate”, can have distressing and unexpected consequences:
- Under statutory intestacy rules, if you are cohabiting but not married or in a registered civil partnership, your partner would inherit nothing.
- The operation of those statutory intestacy rules could force the sale of the family home:
- Your spouse or civil partner would only receive up to £450,000, your personal effects and half of the balance of your estate if you die childless.
- If you die leaving children your spouse or civil partner would only receive £270,000, your personal effects and half of the balance of your estate.
- If you die leaving children under the age of 18 you hand the local authority the power to decide who becomes their guardian, which may force those best placed to look after your children to apply to the court to compete for the right to do so.
- Your loved ones are faced with the added burden of dealing with your intestate estate during which time they would be unable to access or deal with your assets, which may give rise to immediate financial difficulties.
How Do Intestacy Rules Work?
The information below on intestacy rules applies to estates within England and Wales only. Talk to us for further advice if you own property outside England and Wales.
Intestacy Laws in England & Wales
ο Whether you had children.
ο Your immediate family.
Once a relative or class of relatives within this “pecking order” is located, the search stops there and your entire estate is allocated to that relative or relatives.
Intestacy Rules: Key Points
- Your spouse or civil partner will benefit if he/she survives you by 28 days, otherwise, the estate will be dealt with as if you had no spouse or civil partner.
- If a class of relative existed but has died leaving children, those children will inherit equally what would have been their parent’s share “per stirpes”. However, cousins are the remotest relatives who can inherit under the laws of intestacy.
- Within each class of relative, relatives of the full blood (who share the same parents with you) take preference over those of the half blood (who have only one parent in common with you).
- In-laws have no rights.
- Legally adopted children have the same rights as their adopted parent/s’ natural children, but lose all rights to their birth parents’ estates.
- Stepchildren and foster children have no automatic rights.
- Children born out of legal wedlock are recognised under intestacy law.
- “Common Law” husbands/wives are not recognised under intestacy law. They have to go to Court if they wish to be allocated an inheritance.
- Same-sex partners are not recognised under intestacy law unless they registered a civil partnership with you. They have to go to Court if they wish to be allocated an inheritance.
- Children may only inherit directly from their 18th birthday. Before then, their inheritance will be held in trust.
- How beneficiaries will inherit jointly-owned assets is dependent on how that property is held.
Common Intestacy Scenarios
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