Intestacy – Who can inherit if there is no Will

Many say they will make a Will but do nothing. Perhaps they think making a Will is expensive or they have spoken to friends and family about what they want to happen to their estate and think that will be good enough. “They know who I want to have it and they will sort it out.”

But when someone dies without leaving a Will, their estate must be shared out according to rules of –intestacy – without Will and without any control over who will administer their estate or inherit it. A Will states who the Personal Representatives are but without a Will, disagreements can quickly arise amongst those entitled to act. The division of the estate will be subject to the intestacy rules.

Married partners and civil partners

  • If a husband, wife or civil partner die without any surviving children, the spouse or civil partner receives the entire estate.
  • If two people live together but are not married or in a civil partnership, then on death the person they live with receives nothing. They have no right to inherit and this may come as a shock.

The intestacy rules set out, step by step, who will inherit down to the situation where, if there are no blood relatives, the Crown will inherit. There are not many who would wish to leave everything to the Crown.

The further down the order of entitlement, the more complex things become. The risk of the wrong people inheriting increases significantly.

Relatives and children

Take the situation where someone has died and the nearest blood relatives are that person’s aunts and uncles, many of whom have also died and add the possibility of the deceased having numerous uncles and aunts on both sides where the number of potential beneficiaries increases hugely.

Without professional help, people often assume the deceased’s mother’s side of the family inherits 50% of the estate and the father’s side the other 50%. But this is not correct. Each of the deceased’s aunts and uncles receive an equal share and, if they have died, that share is divided between that deceased uncle’s or aunt’s children.

It is vital all possible beneficiaries are located, including illegitimate children not previously known about. One branch of the family may know very little about the other branch of the family and what may be discovered can be devastating.

Today, families are spread around the world and the task of tracing everyone is difficult and extremely time consuming.

It can be confusing, when in the same family, two children have the same name. One perhaps died in infancy and the parents gave a subsequent child the same name.

Personal Representatives having negotiated the pitfalls and, believing they have found all beneficiaries, should remember they are personally responsible for the estate being correctly distributed and all beneficiaries located, which is quite a responsibility.

To protect themselves, they may wish to insure against further beneficiaries coming to light in the future. The cost to the estate of such insurance can be substantial and some insurance companies are reluctant to take the risk.

If only a Will had been made to prevent these problems from arising!

Avoiding intestacy

To ensure you or your loved ones avoid situations of intestacy, consult a solicitor who would be able to advise you in planning your estate sufficiently.

At Moore Barlow, our Private Wealth Solicitors can assist in making a Will and dealing with an intestate estate.