The intestacy rules
When a person dies without a valid will, they are said to have died intestate. In this situation, the Administration of Estates Act, 1925 sets out the rules as to who receives what.
The intestacy rules have been recently changed by the Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act 2014 (ITPA 2014).
The starting point
The starting point is that any debts, including mortgages and other loans, that the deceased has must be repaid in full.
Specific family circumstances
The balance of the deceased’s assets can then be distributed. The order in which this distribution takes place will depend on the deceased’s specific family circumstances.
1. If there is a spouse or civil partner and children
Previously, the spouse or civil partner received the personal chattels and the first £250,000; and a life interest in half of what is left (for example, the income if the money is invested). After 1st October, 2014, the spouse or civil partner receives one half of the residue (the amount above £250,000) in full; not just the income but the capital as well.
The capital passes to the children when the surviving spouse or civil partner dies.
The children share equally between them half of what is left immediately (provided they are 18 or over. If not their share is held in trust until they are 18) and the other half when the surviving spouse or civil partner dies.
If one of the children dies, leaving children then these grandchildren share their parents’ share. Adopted children have rights to inherit under the rules of intestacy; this includes step-children who have been adopted by their step-parent.
Please note that ‘Chattels’ have been redefined in the 2014 Act as anything that is not monetary, business assets or ‘held as an investment.’
2. If there is a spouse or civil partner but no other relatives
The spouse or civil partner receives everything.
3. If there is a spouse or civil partner and relatives but no children
The spouse or civil partner now receives everything.
4. If there are children but no living spouse or civil partner
The children share everything equally.
If one of the children has died, leaving children then these grandchildren will share their parent’s share equally.
5. If there is no spouse or civil partner and no children
Everything will pass to the next available group of relatives in the following order:
The deceased’s parents;
Brothers or sisters of the deceased who have the same parents;
The deceased’s uncles and aunts of the ‘whole blood’ (which means the brothers and sisters of the parents of the deceased provided they had the same mother and father as the deceased’s parents);
The deceased’s uncles and aunts of the ‘half blood’ (which means brothers and sisters of the parents of the deceased who had only the same mother or father);
The Crown (the government).
The information which we provide through Lasting Post is in outline for information or educational purposes only. The information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a solicitor, accountant or other professional adviser. We cannot guarantee that information provided by Lasting Post will meet your individual needs, as this will very much depend on your individual circumstances. You should therefore use the information only as a starting point for your enquiries.