The Intestacy Rules

(Dying without A Will)

What is Intestacy?

When a person passes away without a valid will, it is known as intestacy. In this situation, their property or estate is distributed based on intestacy laws, which aim to ensure a fair allocation of assets. These laws follow a strict hierarchy, giving priority to the spouse or civil partner and biological or legally adopted children. It's important to note that the specific rules may vary depending on the jurisdiction.

Intestacy occurs when someone dies without a valid will. In such cases, the distribution of their estate is determined by intestacy laws. These laws prioritize the spouse or civil partner and biological or legally adopted children in a predetermined order. It is essential to remember that the exact rules can differ based on the jurisdiction.

When someone dies without a valid will, it is called intestacy. Intestacy laws dictate the distribution of their property or estate to ensure a fair allocation of assets. These laws prioritize the spouse or civil partner and biological or legally adopted children in a specific hierarchy. It's important to note that the rules may vary depending on the jurisdiction.

What if I'm unmarried?

If you're unmarried at the time of your death and have not left a valid will, your estate will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy. These laws follow a strict hierarchy of relatives who are eligible to inherit your assets. In most jurisdictions, your children (if you have any) would be the primary beneficiaries. If you don't have children, your parents are typically next in line.

If both your parents have predeceased you or you don't have any living parents, your siblings are usually the next eligible relatives to inherit your assets. If you don't have siblings, the order of inheritance may proceed to more distant relatives such as aunts, uncles, cousins, and so on, depending on the specific laws in your jurisdiction.

However, it's important to note that intestacy laws often fail to accommodate non-traditional family structures or personal preferences. Friends, charities, stepchildren, and unmarried partners are typically excluded from inheritance under these laws. Therefore, creating a comprehensive, legally valid will is the best way to ensure your assets are distributed according to your specific desires.

Can I dictate who gets my assets after my death?

Yes, you can dictate who gets your assets after your death by creating a legal document known as a will. A will is an essential tool in estate planning which allows you to specify exactly how you want your property and assets to be distributed after your death. This includes everything from real estate and bank accounts to personal possessions like cars and jewellery. In your will, you can designate any person or organization you wish to be the beneficiary of your assets.

It's important to remember that creating a will is not a one-time task but requires ongoing attention. Life events such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or the acquisition of substantial assets should prompt a review and potential revision of your will. It's also crucial to consider tax implications when distributing your assets. In some cases, the way you divide your estate can significantly impact the amount of estate tax that must be paid.

However, there are certain restrictions on what you can dictate in your will. For example, in many jurisdictions, you cannot completely disinherit your spouse without their consent. Also, if you have minor children, they may have a legal right to a portion of your estate. Furthermore, a will cannot override the named beneficiary on life insurance policies or retirement accounts unless the beneficiary predeceases you or is ineligible for some reason. Therefore, it's always wise to seek legal advice when creating or updating your will to ensure it aligns with current laws and your wishes are carried out as intended.

What Are The Rules of Intestacy?

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The Rules of Intestacy
Here are some facts

Here's some interesting facts about the Intestacy Rules

Do you think these will be beneficial to you and your family if you die without a Will?

  • The first £322,000 will be passed to the surviving spouse.
  • The remaining amount of the estate will be split 50:50 Between your spouse and children.
  • If you have no children, then 100% will pass to the surviving spouse.
  • If you are NOT married (i.e. cohabiting) and have children, 100% will pass to the children or if no children, to surviving family members first.
  • Any gifts you have given within seven years of your death may be subject to Inheritance Tax.
  • If you're unmarried but in a civil partnership, your partner will be treated as a spouse under intestacy rules.
  • If a beneficiary of your estate passes away before you, their share typically goes to their descendants.
  • The rules of intestacy don't apply to assets held in trust, which are distributed according to the terms of the trust.
  • If you die intestate while living abroad, different countries' laws may apply to your estate.
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What are the intestacy rules?
This passes to your spouse first
Passes to your spouse if no children

Important Matters to Consider

Here are some important circumstances to consider if you are considering keeping your Government Will (dying intestate)

In the unfortunate and inevitable event of one's passing, it's crucial to consider the financial implications for your surviving partner. Particularly, if you share homeownership, and the property is jointly owned, then the entirety – 100% – of this asset will automatically be transferred to your partner under the principles of survivorship.

The majority of an individual's wealth is often tied up in the family home, representing a significant portion of their estate. This financial circumstance raises important questions about the future security of your children. What happens to them if all your assets are inherited by your partner?

Furthermore, consider the potential complexities that could arise if your surviving spouse enters into a new relationship. What if they have additional children or even decide to remarry? The implications of these life events on your children's inheritance can be substantial.

In such scenarios, relying on intestacy laws – essentially allowing the government to dictate the distribution of your estate – could inadvertently lead to your children being disinherited. The assets you intended for your children could be diluted or, in some cases, completely redirected to your partner's new family. To view more about the rules surrounding this, click here.

When contemplating the distribution of your estate, it's important to consider the specific details if you and your spouse own assets worth more than £322,000. The allocation of these assets can differ based on several factors.

For instance, if you jointly own a property, the entirety of this asset will be transferred to your surviving spouse upon your demise. This is not limited to the first £322,000 – the entire value of the property goes to the surviving partner, as dictated by the principles of survivorship.

In contrast, if you have savings or investments, the distribution rules change. The initial £322,000 of these financial resources will be directly transferred to your surviving spouse. Any remaining amount will be divided equally, with 50% going to your spouse and the other half distributed amongst your children.

However, this arrangement could potentially create complications in the event your spouse decides to remarry. In such scenarios, your children might stand to lose out significantly from their inheritance. The new spouse could inadvertently benefit from the fruits of your labour, which were originally intended for your children.

Per the regulations of intestacy, if you are unmarried at the time of your passing, all your accumulated wealth and assets – collectively known as your estate – will be transferred to your immediate surviving family members. This could include parents, siblings, cousins, or other relatives who stand in line to inherit according to the legal order of precedence.

However, if no eligible relatives can be located, or if they choose not to claim their inheritance, an interesting situation arises. After a certain period of time and following extensive searches for potential heirs, all unclaimed assets will eventually revert to the crown. This means that your hard-earned wealth could end up enriching the state's coffers rather than supporting your family members.

The concept known as “escheat” ensures that property is never without ownership. If a deceased's estate can't be passed to any relatives, it reverts to the state. This practice, still common today, allows governments to claim unclaimed property after a certain time. However, extensive efforts are made to find potential heirs before this happens. To ensure your assets are allocated according to your wishes, it's best to create a will or trust.

Under the legal framework of intestacy rules, often referred to as the government's Will, only your biological or adopted children are recognized as legitimate heirs or beneficiaries. This means that in the unfortunate event of your death, these laws don't take into account your personal wishes or unique family dynamics.

For instance, if you have stepchildren, foster children, or individuals who aren't biologically related to you but whom you consider as your own, they won't be legally entitled to any part of your estate under these rules. The government's Will operates strictly within the confines of legal relationships and does not accommodate personal sentiments or individual preferences.

Find Out What Type of Will You Need To Protect Your Family