What is ‘Intestacy’? And what happens if you die with no Will?

In the event that an individual dies in England and Wales without a Will or their Will only disposes of part of their assets then their residuary estate (or the undisposed part of) will fall under the Rules of Intestacy – described in our Rules of Intestacy Flowchart.

The current Rules of Intestacy came into force on 1st October 2014 and under these Rules, where a deceased dies leaving a spouse but no surviving children then the residuary estate is paid to their spouse absolutely. If however, the deceased dies leaving a spouse and surviving children then their residuary estate is divided as follows:

  • The surviving spouse will keep all the assets (including property), up to £250,000.00 (known as a Statutory Legacy) and all the personal possessions.
  • The surviving spouse will also receive an absolute interest in half of the remainder of the residuary estate and,
  • The other half is then divided equally between the surviving children.

The Intestacy Rules that Apply Today

The Government made a change on 6th February 2020, whereby the Statutory Legacy increased from £250,000.00 to £270,000.00.

The increase was most certainly a welcome change. However, at Cunningtons we wish to ensure that you do not rely on future increases of the Statutory Legacy as a reason for not having your Will drafted. It is incredibly important that each individual has their Will drafted by a qualified Solicitor especially as under the Rules of Intestacy, unmarried partners will not inherit.

Avoiding the Pain of Intestacy

The president of the Law Society, who have also reported on the matter today, reinforces our view and states:

“Writing a legally valid will with the help of an expert solicitor ensures people’s estate is inherited exactly as they would choose and can prevent a whole raft of problems landing on loved ones when they are grieving.”

We never know when our life will end, so it is important that we all make a valid Will – just in case. And if you have been left in the painful position of having a loved one die intestate, contact us to discuss what can be done.

If you would like further information about having your Will drafted – or you wish to review the Wills or LPA you currently have please contact the Wills and Probate team on 01376 567280. 

2 thoughts on “Rules of Intestacy: The Situation in 2021”

  1. You say in the second paragraph of The Intestacy Rules that Apply Today section that ‘unmarried partners will not inherit’. What happens then, if there is no Will who does inherit ?. Assuming there is a badly drawn up Will who would inherit??
    What if it can be proven that the couple were not legally married because one of them was not legally divorced from a previous marriage whatt happens then?.

    I am a bit confused as I thought the estate of the deceased would pass to the surviving party or children.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read our article.

      If there is no Will then the statutory rules of intestacy set out who receives the estate and it all depends on who survived the deceased. If at the time of their death the deceased was unmarried and had children (the term children includes legally adopted children but does not include step children) then the estate will pass to the children, if one of the children predeceased the deceased leaving children of their own then their share of the estate will pass down the stems of the family tree to their children (i.e the deceased’s grandchildren). If the deceased had no children and was survived by their parents the estate will pass to their parents, if their parents had predeceased then it will pass to the deceased’s siblings of full blood or of they too had predeceased then to their children, if there are no siblings of full blood it will pass to siblings of half blood or if they had predeceased then to their children, if there no siblings of half blood it will pass on to grandparents of the deceased, if there are no grandparents it will pass on to aunts and uncles of whole blood or their children if they predeceased the deceased or if there are none then to aunts and uncles of half blood or their children if they predeceased the deceased. Finally if the deceased was not survived by any of those family members the estate passes to the crown.

      Where there is a badly drafted Will the estate will pass in accordance with the terms of that Will, provided the Will was validly executed (signed by the deceased in the presence of two independent adult witnesses who also signed in the deceased’s presence and in each other’s presence). Often poorly drafted Wills, such as homemade Wills, cause a lot of administrative difficulties and can end up costing the estate far more in legal fees and often litigation legal fees than instructing a solicitor to draft a Will would have cost.

      The act of entering into a marriage whilst already married to another party is referred to as bigamy and is a criminal offence in England under section 57 of the Offences Against Person Act. If the deceased was not legally divorced when they remarried the second marriage is not a legal marriage and is considered void.

      We hope the above has helped to clarify the position for you. If you do have any further queries please don’t hesitate to contact our probate team on 01376 567280 or bryony.wilmshurst@cunningtons.co.uk

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