Intestacy Rules

The rules of Intestacy are designed to distribute assets between spouses, siblings and close relatives in order of priority, depending on certain factors. Intestacy rules exist for those who have died without a Will to assist the flow of their inheritance – and who should inherit it.

What are the Intestacy Rules?

If you are married/in a civil partnership and you have children

Your spouse will receive the first £250,000 of your Estate plus interest and personal possessions. The remainder of your Estate (if any) will be divided so that half goes to your spouse and half to your child or children. Any child or children that are minors will not receive their share outright until they reach the age of 18.

If you are married/in a civil partnership but have no children

Your spouse will receive all of the Estate and personal possessions.

If you are not married but have children or grandchildren

When your children reach 18 they will inherit all of your Estate. For more than one child, the Estate will be shared equally.

For children that are deceased, their parents share is inherited by grandchildren or great-grandchildren. This also applies to children that have been adopted.

If you are not married and have no children

In this event, your entire Estate will be inherited by your relatives, in this order:

  • Your parents
  • If your parents are deceased it will be passed down to siblings. Full siblings will be granted rights first before half-siblings.
  • Grandparents will receive the Estate if there are no siblings or surviving parents.
  • If grandparents are deceased, inheritance will pass on to uncles, aunts or cousins.

If you are unmarried and have no surviving relatives

In this event, your entire Estate will be passed on to the Crown.

Are there any issues that can be problematic?

In some cases, if an individual has created a Will but it is deemed not legally valid, this can also place that person as an intestate person, whereby through the rules of intestacy, their Estate is shared out and unfortunately, not in the way they have expressed in their Will.

Should you create your own Will without professional help, small mistakes can be made. It’s best to avoid this by using Will writing solicitors, who can help you to ensure your Will is valid when you die.

There are a number of aspects that can be problematic with Wills, which include:

  • Assets mentioned in the Will no longer exist or have been disposed of.
  • Your Will was forged.
  • The Will is either destroyed or a new Will is made, revoking any previous Wills.
  • The Estate cannot cover specific legacies.
  • There isn’t enough to form the residuary Estate once specific legacies have been distributed.
  • The Will has not been signed or witnessed properly and therefore no longer valid.
  • The Will does not specify the whole disposal of the Estate
  • Specific requests in the Will cannot be met due to illegal conditions.
  • Unreasonable funeral wishes compared to the size of the Estate.

Stepchildren and Intestacy Rules

The number of growing stepfamilies is on the rise. A lot of these families are further along in life and are in their second marriage, leaving both biological children and stepchildren.

In most cases, Intestacy Rules apply to biological children and those legally adopted. However, a stepchild can be as equally as involved in their stepparent’s Estate if they are specifically named within the Will.

Simply including the word ‘children’ within the Will, can negatively impact stepchildren by not including them.

Can Stepchildren challenge a Will?

A stepchild can challenge the intestacy rules and make a request of inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 if they have been financially dependent on the step-parent who has died. They can also make an application if the stepchild has been deeply integrated into the family of the stepparent by marriage.

The amount of inheritance does come down to certain factors such as;

  • Level of dependency
  • The age of the stepchild
  • Their needs

Second Marriages and Intestacy Rules

Distributing your Estate when it comes to second marriages or other blended families can be difficult for some people. For example, you might want to ensure your current spouse or partner is provided for during their lifetime.

Ultimately you want your Estate to pass to your biological child or children (from your first marriage/ relationship). If you simply left everything to your current spouse/partner in your Will then you have no control over who will inherit from them; and it might be that your biological child/ children end up getting nothing.

A Trust can be a really useful way of protecting assets after you have died. For example, by including what is known as a ’life interest trust’ in your Will, you can allow your current spouse or partner to live in the family home for his/her lifetime and on their death your share of the property passes to your biological child/ children.

Incorporating a Trust in this way helps you keep control over assets in your Estate after you have died, in a way that looks after all your loved ones.

We offer a free initial 15 minute telephone appointment to give you the opportunity to speak to us about our Will writing services, before deciding if you wish to proceed in instructing us to act on your behalf.

Please contact K J Smith Solicitors on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 0118 418 1000 (Reading Head Office), 0118 418 1200 (Reading Central), 01256 584000 (Basingstoke), 01483 370100 (Guildford), 01494 629000 (Beaconsfield), 01235 375500 (Abingdon), 01344 513000 (Ascot) 01865 703 000 (Oxford), (01635 785 100) (Newbury) or email info@kjsmith.co.uk.

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