Q. My mum died without a will - how is her estate (containing my late father's estate) divided between me and my step dad?
A. When a person dies without leaving a valid will, their estate (assets less liabilities) must be shared in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy which are set out in the Administration of Estates Act 1925 and amended by the Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act 2014. Under these Rules, if the estate is worth less than £250,000, everything will go to the spouse/civil partner. If the estate is worth more than £250,000 and there are children, the division of the estate depends on the date the person passed away. If the person died before 1 October 2014 the spouse/civil partner will receive all personal possessions, the first £250,000 and a life interest in the half of anything that remains. The children will receive the other half of anything that remains and the capital that is left when the spouse/civil partner's life interest ends. If the person died on or after 1 October 2014, the spouse/civil partner will receive the personal possession, the first £250,000 from the estate and half of the remainder outright. The remaining part of the estate will be divided between the children.
Any joint property owned as joint tenants will automatically pass to the surviving spouse/civil partner on the first death. Therefore, property and money that is inherited because it was jointly owned with the deceased as joint tenants does not count as part of the estate of the person who has died when it is being valued for the intestacy rules.
Q. I've lived with my partner for over a decade, if one of us dies without a will what happens to our estate?
A. Cohabiting partners (sometimes incorrectly called 'common law' partners) who were neither married nor in a civil partnership do not inherit under the Rules of Intestacy. The survivor of the couple will receive any assets owned as 'joint tenants' only. Therefore, it is very important for you both to make a Will.
Q. What happens to children of parents who die with no will? How is it decided who takes care of them?
A. If you are parents with a minor child or children, it is vitally important to prepare Wills containing a guardianship clause. In the absence of a Will, the presumption is that they will be cared for by family members who have a close relationship with the children. It will be necessary to apply to the court under family proceedings for parental responsibility.
Q. Intestacy is a word we hear a lot but in simple terms, what does it mean and who does it affect?
A. When someone dies without having made a valid Will, they are described as having died intestate. It is the Rules of Intestacy that determines who gets what if a person dies without having made a valid will.
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