When someone dies without a valid will, their property, money and possessions (their “estate”) will pass under the intestacy rules. These are a fixed set of rules which set out an order of priority to determine who will inherit from the estate.
The first step is normally to apply for a Grant of Representation, which gives you the legal right to deal with the person’s estate.
Who Can Apply for the Grant?
If there is no will, the spouse or children can usually apply for a Grant of Representation. Unmarried partners are not entitled to apply. If the deceased did not leave a spouse or children, their parents or siblings would normally apply for the Grant.
Who Will Inherit?
If the deceased was married with children and the estate was worth less than £250,000, the spouse will inherit everything. If the assets are worth more than £250,000, the spouse inherits the personal possessions, the first £250,000 and the income from half of the remainder. The children will inherit the rest. If they are married without children, the spouse inherits the first £450,000 and other members of the family will inherit the rest. For unmarried couples, there is no automatic right to inherit and the whole estate will be split equally between the children.
If the deceased did not leave a spouse or children, the estate would pass in the following order:
2. Brothers and sisters
4. Uncles and Aunts
Unmarried partners that do not benefit under the intestacy rules may be able to bring a claim against the estate under the provisions of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975. However, these claims can prove expensive, cause delay and bad feeling.
Intestacy rules can be very complicated and it would be more advisable to prepare a valid will to make sure that your estate passes as you wish in the first place.
If you want to know more about wills and the intestacy rules, contact Sarah Ryan on 01525 372 140 or sarahr_at_austinandcarnley.co.uk.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.
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