Wills and Intestacy

Of the 51 million adults living in the UK, 27 million (53%) do not have a will.   Although it can be a burden to create a will, not having one can lead to disagreements between family members or even result in some long term partners being unable to inherit under intestacy rules.   If there is any uncertainty as to whether there is a will or not, then the executor will need to make an effort to trace one. Unfortunately there is no central location in which an individual can leave a will. Most people keep the will at home or have it stored with a solicitor or in a safety deposit box with the bank.   Dying without a will or even a valid will means that the individual has died ‘intestate’. The estate of the deceased will then be dealt with using the rules of intestacy as governed by the Administration of Estates Act 1925 (AEA 1925). There can be total intestacy or partial intestacy.   Total intestacy = the individual has died with no will.   Partial intestacy = someone dies leaving a valid will, but the will only disposes of part of their estate. The intestacy rules apply to the property that has not been disposed of in the will.   Rules of intestacy indicate that married and civil couples can only inherit if they were married or in a civil partnership at the time of the death (even if the couple was separated). Unmarried partners, no matter how long they have lived together have no automatic entitlement under intestacy rules.  
Who inherits when a person dies without a will
The law states that the intestacy rules do not apply to:
  • Joint bank accounts or property owned as joint tenants where the other partner is still alive, and
  • Life insurance policies which is in the benefit of a named person
For other assets, the order of entitlement under the intestacy rules is set out in section 46 of the AEA 1925 and depends on:
  • The value of the intestate’s estate.
  • Which members of the intestate’s family survive.
The right of a family member to have an entitlement on intestacy depends on his relationship to the intestate and whether any closer relatives have survived.   If the death was before 1st October 2014 and the residuary estate is less than £250,000 then the surviving spouse receives everything.   However if the residuary estate is more than £250,000 then the estate would be split between the surviving spouse and any surviving issues.   Surviving spouse inherits:
  • All personal belongings
  • The first £450,000 of the estate, and
  • Half of the remaining estate in trust
Children receive:
  • Remaining half of the estate
However if the death was on or after the 1st October 2014 then: Surviving spouse receives:
  • All personal belongings
  • The first £250,000 of the estate, and
  • Half of the remaining estate absolutely
Issue receive:
  • Remaining half of the estate
Special Rules If the deceased dies leaving a spouse then they must survive the intestate for 28 days or they are classed as not having outlived the deceased.   Children do not receive their inheritance right away. Rather the children must reach the age of 18 when they can access the trust.   For further information regarding wills and probate, please do not hesitate to call Health Assured and speak to one of our in house legal advisors. For emotional support following the loss of a loved one, please remember that our counselling team are here to help.

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