Most adults know that they ought to have a Will in place, not least to ensure their loved ones are protected should they die. For parents the importance is even greater as decisions need to be made with regards to their children’s care and upbringing. But, despite this, around 70% of parents with children under the age of 18 don’t have a Will.
This webpage will provide a brief summary of what will happen to your estate if you die without making a Will. The rules which apply to England and Wales are known as the “Rules of Intestacy” (the position is different in Scotland and Northern Ireland). However, any assets that are owned jointly (such as a bank account) will usually pass to the surviving joint owner on the death of one joint owner under the rules of survivorship, although the situation regarding a house will depend upon the exact nature of the joint ownership.
The rules of intestacy are as follows:
If you are married or in a registered civil partnership and die
- with or without children, with an estate valued at less than £250,000 then it will pass in full to your spouse or civil partner.
- with children and your estate is £250,000 or over then your spouse will receive your personal possessions plus the first £250,000 of your estate plus a life interest in half the remainder. Your children will receive the balance in equal shares.
- without children and your estate is £250,000 or over then your spouse will receive your personal possessions plus the first £450,000 of your estate, together with half the remainder. Your parents will receive the balance. If you have no parents who are alive, then your brothers and sisters will share the balance. If you have no parents or brothers and sisters, then half brothers and sisters will share the balance.
- with no children, parents or brothers and sisters then your entire estate will pass to your spouse or civil partner.
If you are un-married and
- have children, then your estate will be divided equally between them. If you have no surviving children but have grandchildren, then your estate will be divided equally between all your grandchildren.
- have no children or grandchildren, then your estate will be divided equally between your parents. If you have no surviving parents then your estate will be divided equally between your brothers and sisters. If you have no parents or brothers or sisters then your half brothers and sisters will share your estate.
- have no surviving parents, brothers or sisters, half brothers or sisters, then your estate will be divided equally between your grandparents. Failing this, your estate will be divided equally between your uncles and aunts. If you have no uncles or aunts then your estate will be divided equally between half uncles and aunts.
- are not survived by any parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, uncles or aunts or half uncles or aunts, your estate will pass to the Crown.
It is important to remember that if any of your children have died before you leaving children of their own (i.e. your grandchildren), then they will be entitled to take between them the share that their mother or father would have taken had he or she still been alive.
This also applies to any of your brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, who have died before you but have surviving children. As with grandchildren, they would share their deceased parent’s portion equally between them.
Getting confused yet?
Here is a fictitious case example to help you understand.
Martin is a widower aged 86 and he died without making a Will. Martin had four children, Catherine, Philippa, Hannah, and Sarah.
The eldest three children were all alive when Martin passed away, but his youngest child (Sarah) died when she was in his early fifties, leaving two sons – Andy and Dan. Andy sadly passed away in his twenties leaving behind a young daughter named Stella.
Martin’s estate is divided into four equal shares. Catherine, Philippa and Hannah each get one share. The other share (which would have gone to Sarah if she was still alive) is divided into two equal shares: Dan gets one share, and the other share (which would have gone to Andy if he was still alive), passes to Stella when she reaches eighteen.
If you are ever in any doubt about who will inherit, you should seek legal advice.
To avoid leaving problems behind for your loved ones then make a Will!
Source: Flint Bishop Solicitors.