When someone passes away without having made a will, it is known as dying “intestate”. It is the Intestacy Rules that will govern the distribution of the estate amongst the living relatives.
Who is the next of kin?
I am often asked, “who is my next of kin?” The term, next of kin for the purposes of determining who will act in the estate of someone who has died without a will, is the closest living relative normally the spouse or the civil partner.
Although in the UK we do not have a formal definition of the next of kin, there is an order of priority as to who can act when dealing with a deceased’s estate:
- Spouse / civil partner
- Children if over 18 years
According to Royal London’s Survey just under two-thirds of the UK population do not have a will in place. This figure, I think will change drastically after living through a global pandemic and the thought of our own mortality has come to the forefront of our minds.
But sadly, probate solicitors have seen many who have passed away without a will or without having time to update their current will as it no longer reflects their situation. For those, it is too late.
Who can inherit if there is no will? The Rules of Intestacy
The law governing the intestacy rules can be seen at:
- Marriage or Civil Partnership. The first question to ask is, did the person who died leave a spouse or civil partner? If they did not have any children then the spouse or civil partner receives the whole estate.
- Children. If there are children as well as a spouse or civil partner. Then the distribution is as follows:
- All the personal possessions and the first £270,000 in the estate goes to the spouse or civil partner.
- Together with one-half of the net remaining assets.
- The children will receive the other half of the remaining assets shared equally between them.
- Single person leaving children. The children would receive the entire estate equally between them.
- Single person without children but with parent. The entire estate would be shared equally between the parents.
- Single person without children or parents. If they have living siblings then the whole estate would be divided equally between the siblings and to half siblings if there are no siblings of full blood. Nephews and nieces would receive the share of a deceased sibling.
- Same as above but without siblings (full or half) but grandparents survive them. Then the whole estate would be divided between each living grandparent equally.
- If there are aunts and uncles that survive them then the whole estate is shared equally between the aunts and uncles with cousins receiving any deceased aunts and uncles’ share.
- If all the above fails then the whole estate will go to the crown
Who will not inherit?
The distribution can seem harsh, unfair and wholly not suited to the people who are left behind. The following people do not have a right to inherit from the estate of the person who has died.
- Unmarried partners, they are the ones who lose out the most as often they have purchased a property together. They would have to make a claim against the estate and this would be quite an expensive process. Far cheaper to have a will in place and go through the normal process of probate.
- Close friends.
- Other relatives who rank lower in the list or are related by marriage and as such do not feature above.
There are a large number of people who are not aware of the implications of not having a will in place. They are not aware of the stress and hardship that they will leave behind for their loved ones to have to sort through. The public should be reminded to make a will and to put their affairs in order at every key stage of their lives.
A will ensures that assets are past to the next generation in a tax – efficient way so that the maximum of a person’s wealth is past down with the minimum of taxes. It can provide for long-term care for loved ones; co-ownership of property whether UK based or overseas; provide protection of wealth for the family and loved ones through the use of trusts.
Don’t put off making a Will!
Contact SCL Wills and Probate for further details on 0203 004 8269.