When a person dies without leaving a valid will, their property (the estate) must be shared out according to the rules of intestacy under law. Only married or civil partners or close relatives can inherit in these circumstances.Read on for more information on how the rules of intestacy will distribute the estate applicable to certain circumstances involving married partners, children, parents, siblings and values of property over £250,000 and £450,000. For more information about your rights to inheritance please call 02830267134 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free initial consultation.
Married partners and civil partners
Married partners or civil partners inherit under the rules of intestacy provided they are not divorced or legally separated. Partners who separated informally can still inherit under the rules of intestacy. Cohabiting partners who were neither married nor in a civil partnership do not.
a) all the personal property and belongings of the person who has died, and
b) the first £250,000 of the estate, and
c) half of the remaining estate if there is one child and one third if there is more than one child.
d) the child(ren) inherit the remaining share
a) the first £450,000 of the estate, and
b) half of the remaining estate if there are parents or siblings of the deceased alive
c) the parents or siblings inherit the remaining share
Jointly Owned Property
Partners may jointly own their home. There are two different ways of jointly owning a home. These are joint tenancies and tenancies in common. If the partners were joint tenants at the time of the death, when the first partner dies, the surviving partner will automatically inherit the other partner’s share of the property. If the partners are tenants in common then the partner will not inherit automatically and the rule of intestacy shall apply to that share.
Typically partners may also have joint bank or building society accounts. If one dies, the other partner will automatically inherit the whole of the money unless there are strong grounds to say otherwise.
Property and money that the surviving partner inherits does not count as part of the estate of the person who has died when it is being valued for the intestacy rules.
Children of the intestate person will inherit if there is no surviving married or civil partner. If there is a surviving partner, they will inherit only if the estate is worth more than £250,000 as set out above. A child whose parents are not married or have not registered a civil partnership can inherit from the estate of a parent who dies intestate. Children do not receive their inheritance immediately. They receive it when they:
Until then, trustees manage the inheritance on their behalf.
Adopted children (including step-children who have been adopted by their step-parent) have rights to inherit under the rules of intestacy. But otherwise you have to be a biological child to inherit.
All the children of the parent who has died intestate inherit equally from the estate. This also applies where a parent has children from different relationships.
Parents and Siblings
Parents and siblings of the intestate person may inherit a share of the estate as set out above under the rules of intestacy. This will depend on a number of circumstances:
A grandchild cannot inherit from the estate of an intestate person unless their parent has died before the intestate person. In these circumstances, the grandchildren will inherit equal shares of the share to which their parent would have been entitled.
Grandparents, uncles and aunts or cousins may have a right to inherit if the person who died intestate had no surviving married partner or civil partner, children, grandchildren, great grand-children, parents, brothers, sisters, nephews or nieces.
Deed of Family Arrangement
It is possible to rearrange the way property is shared out when someone dies without leaving a will, provided this is done within two years of the death. This is called making a deed of family arrangement or variation. All the people who would inherit under the rules of intestacy must agree.
Who cannot inherit
The following people have no right to inherit where someone dies without leaving a will:
Even if you can’t inherit under the rules of intestacy, you may be able to apply to court for financial provision from the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) (Northern Ireland) Order 1979 if for example you were dependent upon the deceased.
You must make the application within a certain time limit.
The court may order:
If there are no surviving relatives
If there are no surviving relatives who can inherit under the rules of intestacy, the estate passes to the Crown. This is known as bona vacantia. The Treasury Solicitor is then responsible for dealing with the estate. The Crown can make grants from the estate but does not have to agree to them.