What does it mean to die intestate?
A person, who passes away without having written a Will, or if their Will is invalid, dies intestate. In such circumstances the person’s estate is distributed according to the laws of intestacy. The person’s estate will be divided up among relatives based on the laws of intestacy.
Some people write a valid Will but do not divide all their assets up, and the reminder of their estate will then be distributed according to the laws of intestacy. This is known as dying partially intestate. To avoid this some people choose to leave a residuary gift. This means that any remaining assets which are not distributed in the Will pass to the person, charity or organisation which is named as the beneficiary.
What happens to the estate when there is no valid Will?
There are a number of factors which depend on how a person’s assets are distributed. A major implication is whether or not there is a surviving spouse or civil partner.
Spouses and civil partners have the main right to the deceased’s estate. If a spouse or civil partner dies leaving no Will then the following apply. If the deceased spouse has no children, parents, brothers, sisters or children of a deceased brother or sister then the entire estate will be left to the surviving spouse or civil partner. Even if there are other family members such as grandparents, cousins and half siblings they have no claim on any of the assets.
However, if the surviving spouse or civil partner dies during the 28 days after the death of the intestate then the assets will be divided as if there was no surviving spouse i.e. according to the Laws of Intestacy.
What if a person has no surviving spouse or civil partner?
If a person dies intestate and has no husband, wife or civil partner then their estate will be divided in accordance with ‘The Laws of Intestacy, (1925)’. This means that who inherits the deceased’s property, money and any other assets has already been decided by the state.
With no valid Will the estate will be divided as follows under the ‘Laws of Intestacy’.
Firstly the estate would pass to any of the person’s children with any property being placed in a trust.
If there are no children then the estate would be shared equally among parents if they are both alive.
Brothers and sisters
If there are no parents alive then the assets would be divided amongst brother and sisters and any property would be placed in a trust.
Half brothers and half sisters
If there are no brothers and sisters then the estate would pass to any half siblings and any property would be placed in a trust.
If there are no half siblings then the assets will pass to any grandparents and be shared equally if more than one is alive.
Uncles and aunts
If there are no remaining grandparents then uncles and aunts will inherit the assets, with property being placed in a trust.
Half uncles and aunts
With no uncles or aunts, half uncles and aunts are next to inherit any assets.
If there are no relatives of any of the above to inherit then the entire person’s estate will be passed on to The Crown.
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