When you die without a Will, your possessions will follow the rules of intestacy. In layman’s language, if you fail to make a valid Will before you die, your property, finances and other assets will not be shared by your wishes but will be shared out according to the law instead. This, as you imagine, takes the control away from you, and the loved ones you wished to inherit specific assets.

Unfortunately, the state of your relationships will not matter when you were alive. Two things can happen:

  • Someone you wanted to pass things on to ends up with absolutely nothing
  • Your estate could get passed to someone you had not intended.


What is Intestacy?

In Layman’s terms, dying without a valid Will is called intestacy or can be termed Dying Intestate.


 What are the rules of intestacy if you are a Married or Civil Partner?

If you are married or in a civil partnership at the time of death, you are covered by the rules of Intestacy. If you are divorced, or the civil partnership is legally ended, you cannot inherit under the rules of Intestacy.

Other standard rules that could become relevant if you have not made a Will can include:

  1. By not being married or in a civil partnership will result in your partner not having a legal entitlement to anything you wish to leave to him or her when you die.
  2. When you are married, your spouse might well inherit nearly all of your estate resulting in your children not receiving anything. (For those living in Scotland, please research separately) This same situation can also happen if you are separated but not yet divorced.
  3. Regarding your children and grandchildren, it will be determined by where you reside in the UK on how much they can legally be entitled to receive. By making the Will beforehand can permit you to decide what happens.
  4. By making a Will, you can control or effect Inheritance Tax that your estate will attract and in some cases you can avoid nearly all tax.


What happens if you leave no surviving relatives?

Sadly this is not a rare situation since the 1960s, whereby families have become smaller in number over the decades and people have been living longer. If you die and there are no surviving relatives then under the rules of intestacy, your estate will pass to the crown. This known by the term Bona Vacantia.

The assigned Treasury Solicitor will then become responsible for dealing with your estate. The Crown may make grants from the estate, but in themselves do not necessarily have to agree to them.

For persons who believe although they are not a surviving relative but feel they have a good reason to apply for a grant, will almost certainly need to seek legal advice.


What are the rules for applying for Financial Assistance?

You are allowed to apply to the court for reasonable financial assistance from the estate of the person who has died intestate. An example of this is when you were living with the person who has died, but you were not married to each other. As you now know you would not inherit under the rules of intestacy. But, you can apply to the court for financial assistance. The law here rules you must have lived with your partner for at least two years prior before their demise.

A further example could be, you were always treated by the person who has died as a child of his/her family. Yes, you would not inherit under the rules of intestacy; however, you could apply to the court for financial support.

Referring to time frames, you must have made the application within a specified time limit, although in some circumstances this may be extended.

The court concerned is allowed to order the following:

  • Regular payments or a lump sum payment from the estate relevant.
  • A property or properties to be transferred from the estate concerned.


Rejecting your inheritance

Should you decide for whatever reason, to deny your inheritance, known also as: “Disclaiming It”, there are specific rules regarding who can inherit. As we have often advised throughout this article, always research, seek advice, and do not ignore such information

09.08.18 - Zenwills
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