Without a Will the strict inheritance laws called the Rules of Intestacy apply.
If someone dies without an effective Will, they have died 'Intestate'. The Rules of Intestacy are very specific regarding who can administer your estate, who will inherit from it and how much they will receive. It cannot be assumed that everything will automatically go to the surviving partner or immediate next of kin.
In an Intestacy situation, a thorough understanding of the family tree is required to apply these rules correctly as they follow the next of kin in a strict order of priority. If there are no living relatives, the estate will automatically go to the Crown.
Who do the Rules of Intestacy not cater for?
The Rules of Intestacy were established in 1925 and do not cater for some of the relationships and family situations that are common in modern day life, including:
Unmarried couples or people living together
The Rules of Intestacy make no provision for unmarried and unregistered partners. This means that the surviving partner will not inherit any of the property and possessions owned in the sole name of the deceased.
The Rules of Intestacy only recognise natural and adopted children for the purpose of inheritance; they do not acknowledge step children. Without a Will, step children will therefore not benefit.
Step parents and step brothers or sisters
The Rules of Intestacy do not acknowledge step parents and step brothers or sisters. Without a Will they will not benefit.
Many people wish to leave property or possessions to friends who are not members of the family. Without a Will, friends will not benefit as they are not acknowledged by the Rules of Intestacy.
Charities and organisations
Many people wish to leave gifts to charities and organisations. However, without a Will, these gifts will not be made because the Rules of Intestacy only recognise family members.
The only way to guarantee that your property and possessions go to the people you want is to write a Will.
Find out further details on making a Will here
The information given is for guidance only and may not exactly cover your specific circumstances. Seek professional advice to discuss your specific circumstances and wishes. Different laws apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland.