What happens if you die without preparing a valid Will?
Posted on 12th April 2022 at 14:39
You may be surprised how your estate is distributed if you have not prepared a valid Will
If you die without leaving a valid Will your estate is distributed in accordance with rules laid down by Parliament called the Rules of Intestacy.
Only married or civil partners and some other close relatives inherit under the rules of intestacy.
Jointly Owned Property or Assets
Any property you own jointly such as a house as joint tenants or a joint bank account will pass to the survivor automatically.
Married Partners and Civil Partners
If you die without a valid Will leaving no children your entire estate will pass to your partner.
However, if you die leaving children (including adopted) and your estate is valued at more than £270,000 your partner will not inherit all your estate:
Under the rules of intestacy they would receive:
• all of your belongings
• the first £270,000 of your estate, and
• 50% of the remaining estate.
You are married with one daughter and die without leaving a will. Your estate (including your half share of the house if held as tenants in common but less the value of belongings) is worth £500,000. Your partner inherits an initial share of £270,000. The balance of the estate is worth £230,000. This means that your partner would receive 50% of this and the remaining £115,000 would pass immediately to your daughter.
Important note – if all or the bulk of your estate was tied up in your share of the house this would mean that your daughter would own a share in the property immediately. This is not always ideal or in accordance with your wishes.
If you die without a valid Will and there is no surviving married or civil partner your estate will be divided equally between your children. If any of your children predeceased you their children will equally share the amount their parent would have received.
Other Close Relatives
If you have no living children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren the whole estate will pass to a single person or class of persons in the following order of priority:
• Your surviving parents equally
• Your siblings of the whole blood but if they have predeceased it is divided between their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren
• Your siblings of the half blood but if they have predeceased it is divided between their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren
• Your surviving grandparents equally
• Your uncles and aunts of the whole blood but if they have predeceased it is divided between and then their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren
• Your uncles and aunts of the half blood but if they have predeceased it is divided between and then their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren
• Ultimately if there is no one to inherit as above your estate will pass to the Crown. The Treasury Solicitor takes over responsibility for dealing with the estate and they can in certain circumstances agree to make grants to interested parties.
Note that divorced spouses, cohabitants, unmarried partners, relations by marriage, friends, carers or step children (unless adopted) have no rights to claim under an intestacy.
Any beneficiary who has received a share or such other persons listed above may make a claim against the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 if they do not receive adequate financial provision from the deceased’s estate.
The Rules of Intestacy rarely mirror the wishes of most people. This particularly applies where a child immediately inherits a share of the property on the death of the first parent when most would typically wish this to follow the death of the surviving parent.
Varying the Intestacy
Any beneficiary aged 18 or over who receives a share under the Rules of Intestacy can agree to enter into a “Deed of Variation”. This varies the distribution of the estate in order to distribute funds to someone who is not entitled to benefit under the rules provided this is completed within 2 years of the date of death. For inheritance tax and capital gains tax purposes this is read back as though the terms of the variation were made by the person who died.
This is common where a child inherits a share of the family home and they wish for the surviving parent to inherit and own all of the property.
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