UHY Ross Brooke Chartered Accountants

Intestacy Rules – Choose who you leave your estate to

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Michael BrookeWe always stress to clients the importance of making a will. This is not only so that assets are left to beneficiaries of one’s own choosing, but also so that other important instructions can be carried out, such as who will administer the estate, who will act as guardian to any children (after the surviving spouse), what will happen to personal possessions and even who will take care of any pets.

By Michael Brooke

However, such advice is not always followed, and if there is no valid will when someone dies, then we have an intestacy.  If there is a will but it does not dispose of all the assets, then it is termed a partial intestacy.

An invalid will also result in an intestacy.  An invalid will can arise in a surprising number of ways. For example, a subsequent marriage automatically revokes a previous will as does a sole beneficiary predeceasing or divorcing the deceased. In addition, a failure to deal with the formalities such as the correct witnessing of the will also makes the will invalid.

The laws and regulations relevant to intestacy come from the Administration of Estates Act 1925, as amended by the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014.

The general principle is that, in the case of a non-existent or invalid will, the estate is shared by relatives in the highest category to the exclusion of relatives in a lower category.  However, where there is a surviving spouse and children the surviving spouse may be required to share the estate with the children depending on the size of the estate.

Intestacy rules

The broad rules are as follows:

  • Joint assets pass by survivorship and are deemed to be outside of the will.  Thus, joint beneficial ownership of a house passes to the survivor, as does a joint bank account.
  • A surviving spouse with issue would get the first £322,000 of the estate (increased from £250,000 since 26 July 2023) absolutely, plus personal chattels and half of anything remaining. The child/children will inherit the other half of anything remaining, split equally between all children.
  • Where there is a surviving spouse but no issue, the surviving spouse will inherit all the personal property and belongings and the whole of the estate from the date of death.
  • If there is no surviving spouse or issue, then the order of inheritance is:
    • Parents
    • Brothers & sisters of whole blood
    • Brothers and sisters of half blood
    • Surviving grandparents
    • Uncles and aunts of whole blood
    • Unless and aunts of half blood 
    • The Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duke of Cornwall (as bona vacantia)

The details are complex and professional advice is usually required.

The administrators of the Estate are generally those inheriting the estate with a maximum of 4 being appointed.  It is generally advisable to have at least two where minor children or a life interest is involved.

It is permissible to renounce a claim under intestacy so that the next in line can benefit.

As you can see from the above, it is much simpler to have a will in place.

Next steps

Meet our probate specialists in Abingdon

We are highly experienced and licensed probate practitioners, licensed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), a licensing body for probate.

As full members of STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) our services include probate activities, will writing, estate planning, applications for grants of probate, the administration of estates and the administration of trusts. We can advise on and minimise tax liability on Inheritance Tax and taxes related to trusts and estates.

We have the experience to ensure that the management of the estate will be handled professionally and sensitively. To find out how we can help you, please fill in the form below to contact one of our probate advisors in Abingdon.

Our probate specialists are based in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, and we have 4 offices across Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire, and look after probate, estate, trust and tax clients from all across the UK.

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