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Intestacy

What is intestacy?
All too often we come across situations where there is no valid Will in place at the date of death.  In absence of a Will, the intestacy rules determine who shall inherit, and the estate is not always distributed as anticipated.

The key implications of dealing with intestacy as compared with a Will are that:

  • If you die leaving family members who are financially dependent upon you (such as a spouse or children), this impacts on who will inherit your estate.
  • Your dependants may not receive anything at all in certain circumstances, or it may be apportioned between them in a way that seems unfair.  Unless you make a Will the intestacy rules decide who inherits and in what proportions.
  • The intestacy rules also determine who will be responsible for administering the estate.
  • It can be more expensive and time consuming to administer your estate.
  • You will have missed the opportunity to choose legal guardians for young children.
  • Children will automatically inherit at 18 rather than at an age of your choosing.

Other pitfalls of intestacy

  • Writing a Will often triggers a review of assets, which can identify where jointly owned assets are held as joint tenants (which would automatically pass to the co-owner).  This is easily missed without a review.
  • If you die without a Will and do not have relatives who would inherit under intestacy, then your estate passes to the Government.  Non-relatives (such as long term carers or unmarried partners) have no claim on the estate.
  • Marriage automatically cancels your existing Will in most cases.
  • Divorce cancels the parts of your Will that relate to your ex-spouse, which can have a huge unintended increase in the amount of the estate left to the residuary beneficiary.
  • Separation has no effect upon the validity of an existing Will.

How do the intestacy rules apply?

  • The laws of intestacy determine who will benefit from your estate.
  • Your estate may go to people you did not intend to benefit.
  • There is no automatic provision for unmarried partners.
  • You cannot choose who will administer your estate.

See our summary rules of intestacy to see what happens if you die without making a Will.

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