If You Die Without A Will

If you die without making a valid will, you are said to die 'intestate' and the law lays down rules of intestacy to determine who should inherit your property. The rules are complicated.

First, there is no executor because you have left no instructions in your will. Instead, there is an administrator.

The nearest relative has the right to apply to be the administrator - normally it is the spouse or child of the deceased. Administrators have similar duties to executors.

If there is a surviving spouse and surviving children or grandchildren, the spouse inherits all personal possessions, including furniture, motor cars and jewellery and the first £80,000 of the rest.

The surviving spouse also retains a life interest in half of the balance of the estate. The other half is divided among the children (or, if they are dead, the grandchildren) who also inherit the first half on the death of the remaining spouse.

Similar rules apply if there is a surviving spouse and a surviving parent or sibling of the deceased except that the spouse gets £89 ,000 and half the remainder instead of £80,000 and a life interest in half the remainder.

If there are no children, parents or siblings, the spouse inherits the whole estate.

If there is no surviving spouse, any children (or grandchildren) inherit in equal shares. If there are no children (or grandchildren), the parents of the deceased inherit. If they are dead, the inheritance passes on through relatives in a strict order of precedence starting with any brothers or sisters of the deceased, then their children, and so on into more remote degrees of relationship. But only blood relatives can be considered as beneficiaries.

If no one is entitled, the estate passes to the Crown.


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