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If your relative has 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 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, our team of Probate solicitors (based in Preston and Lancaster) 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. 

Contact our Wills & Probate specialists 

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 £250,000.00 [this value is correct at the time of posting, however could increase in the future]). 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 £250,000.00, you will inherit the first £250,000.00 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 £250,000.00. After this, there will be £250,000.00 remaining, so you will inherit another £125,000.00. The remaining £125,000.00 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. 

Now, 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 automatically 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 £250,000.00, 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 £50,000.00), 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, Mr Smith’s estate is worth £275,000.00. In these circumstances, Mrs Smith would inherit £250,000.00 from the estate, and any children would inherit £25,000.00 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, here

Where does the money from Bona Vacantia estates go? 

The Treasury Solicitor is tasked with dealing with estates which have passed to the Crown. The Crown can make grants from the estate of a deceased person, but is under no obligation to. If you think that you have a good reason to apply for a Grant from the estate of a deceased person, speak to our team of Probate Solicitors about whether you may have a claim. 

Who does not inherit from the estate? 

As the Rules of Intestacy currently stand, unmarried partners of the deceased (whether they were co-habiting or not) cannot inherit. Likewise, relations by marriage, friends or carers are not entitled to inherit from the estate. 

Can you change how the estate is shared out? 

Yes! If someone is due to inherit from the estate, but wanted to change their share, the people entitled to inherit could all agree to vary the inheritance. This is usually done through a Deed of Variation. 
A Deed of Variation could even be put in place to benefit people who wouldn’t usually receive something from the estate, such as a partner or friend. 

How much does a Deed of Variation cost? 

Our team of solicitors in Preston usually charge around £300.00 plus VAT for a relatively straight forward Deed. 

Can I make a claim if I am excluded from the deceased’s Will? 

You may be able to make a claim if you believed that you were going to inherit from a deceased’s estate, but haven’t, or if you believe that you were dependent on the deceased’s money. For example, surviving partners who cohabited may wish to make an application to the Court for financial help. In these cases, the cohabitation must have occurred for at least two years prior to the deceased’s death. 
Another circumstance in which you may claim, was if you were treated as a child of the family, but wouldn’t be entitled to claim under the Rules of Intestacy, you may wish to make a claim. 
Our expert team of Probate Solicitors are on hand to answer all of your queries, and to provide you with first class legal advice. 
Contact the team today, here, or email
MG Legal - Your Local Solicitors 
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