How will my estate pass if I do not have a Will?
If your relative has died and not left a Will, it can be hard to know where to start when dealing with their estate. That’s where our team of solicitors in Preston, Garstang and Lancaster come in: we offer fixed-fee Probate applications, which you find out about here, and home visits are available, by appointment.
However, if you’re wondering who can deal with, and benefit from your loved one’s estate, all is not lost- our team of local Probate solicitors have put together an explanation of the Intestacy Rules and what this means for you.
Currently, only married or civil partners, or close relatives can inherit under the rules of intestacy. If you want a friend or more distant relative to inherit from your estate, you must ensure that you have a valid Will in place which details these wishes.
If you have any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to contact one of our friendly, local Wills and Probate experts.
How will the estate pass?
Initially, if you are the surviving spouse or civil partner of the deceased, you would be entitled to all or part of the estate, if the value is under £270,000.00 (this value is correct at the time of posting- November 2020).
However, if you and your spouse were divorced at the time of their death, or your civil partnership had ended, then you are not entitled to benefit under the Rules of Intestacy.
Likewise, if you were cohabiting without being married or in a civil partnership (sometimes referred to as ‘common-law’ partners), you cannot currently benefit under the Rules of Intestacy.
If you have children with your deceased spouse, or remoter issue, such as grandchildren or great-grandchildren, and the estate from your spouse is worth more than £270,000.00, you will inherit the first £270,000.00 of the estate, all of the personal belongings of the person who has died, and half of the remaining estate.
For example, if your spouse’s estate is worth £500,000.00, you will inherit the first £270,000.00. After this, there will be £230,000.00 remaining, so you will inherit another £115,000.00. The remaining £115,000.00 will pass equally between any surviving children, or if the children have predeceased, to any grandchildren.
If there are no children, or remoter issue, you will inherit everything.
What happens with any jointly owned property?
There are two different ways of jointly owning a property: either as tenants in common or as beneficial joint tenants.
If two people own a property as joint tenants, on the death of the first person, the property would automatically pass to the survivor of them. If a property is owned as tenants in common, the surviving owner would not automatically inherit the property, and this would pass as per their Will (or the Rules of Intestacy if they have no Will in place).
Any joint bank accounts or savings accounts would work in the same way as being beneficial joint tenants: they would automatically pass to the surviving named person.
Therefore, in any estate calculation, these sums are not taken into account.
For example, Mr and Mrs Smith are married and own their property as beneficial joint tenants. The property it worth £350,000.00. In joint names, Mr and Mrs Smith have a bank account with £100,000.00, and in Mr Smith’s sole name is an ISA worth £50,000.00. On Mr Smith’s death, as two of the assets are owned jointly (the property and the bank account), these pass to the surviving owner, Mrs Smith. Therefore, the value of Mr Smith’s estate (for the purposes of the Rules of Intestacy) is limited to the ISA: £50,000.00. As this amount is under £270,000.00, Mrs Smith would inherit everything. Any children of Mr and Mrs Smith would not inherit anything at this stage.
Now, if Mr and Mrs Smith owned their property as tenants in common and had separate bank accounts (Mr Smith’s bank account being worth £75,000.00), Mr Smith’s share of the property (if we assume that they own the property 50/50), would be £175,000.00. When all these figures are calculated, including Mr Smith's ISA account above (£50,000.00), Mr Smith’s estate is worth £300,000.00. In these circumstances, Mrs Smith would inherit £270,000.00 from the estate, and any children would inherit £30,000.00 in equal shares.
What if there is no surviving spouse or children (or remoter issue)?
If there is no surviving spouse or children, our Probate solicitors would advise that the estate would pass to any surviving parents, in equal shares.
If this fails, the deceased’s estate would pass to any brothers and sisters, in equal shares, or to their half-brothers and half-sisters. If their siblings, or half siblings, have predeceased them, the share of the estate that they would have inherited would pass to their children (so the nieces and nephews of the deceased).
If this also fails, the estate would then pass to living grandparents, followed by aunties and uncles, or half-aunts and half-uncles. Like with siblings, cousins and half-cousins can inherit if their parent has predeceased them, and would have inherited from the estate.
What happens if there are no half-cousins?
Well, at the moment, the estate would pass to the crown. The term for these types of estates is ‘Bona Vacantia’, which means vacant goods. As of 4th October 2019, information published by the Bona Vacantia Division shows that there are 8,450 unclaimed estates in England and Wales, dating back to 2013, and some only marked as historic. A person entitled to benefit under the Rules of Intestacy could still inherit, by making a claim online.
How can MG Legal help?
If your loved one has died without a Will, MG Legal can help. Our expert Wills, Trusts, Tax and Probate Solicitors could help you to apply for Letters of Administration (also known as Probate), and deal with the distribution of your loved one’s Estate.
As one of the top three Estate Planning solicitors in Lancaster, our team are experts in Probate Applications.