What happens if you die without making a Will?

Bereavement can be an extremely emotional and distressing time for all concerned.  Sadly this can be made even worse if the deceased did not leave a valid Will.  In such circumstances a set of rules known “the Intestacy Rules” will govern the division of their estate.  These Rules can be complex and getting it wrong can be all too easy.

1. My partner died without leaving a Will. Am I entitled to his estate?

No.  Whilst we often refer to our partners as “common-in-law” there is no such status in a legal sense.  The rules of Intestacy state very clearly the strict order in which persons are entitled to deal with the estate (to “administer” it) and who is to inherit.   The order is as follows:-

  • Surviving Spouse
  • Children (and descendants of deceased children)
  • Parents
  • Brothers and Sisters of the whole blood (or their descendants)
  • Brothers and Sisters of the half-blood (or their descendants)
  • Grandparents
  • Uncles and Aunts of the whole blood (or their descendants)
  • Uncles and Aunts of the half-blood (or their descendants)
  • The Crown

This means that rather than his assets passing to you, they will pass to your partner’s family. This can be particularly distressing if you share a home.  In the absence of any agreement with his family you may be left with little option than to make a claim against his estate as a dependent.  Such claims can be long and drawn out and there are no guarantees of success.

2. Can I just deal with the estate anyway?

In all instances, no matter how well intentioned, if you start to administer an estate when you are not entitled to, you can be regarded as “intermeddling”.  You could find yourself answerable to those that are entitled for your actions.  This can mean that you are personally financially liable for any actions you may have carried out.

3. My late partner and I had infant children. Can I deal with the estate?

Those children will be the beneficiaries of his estate.  If those children are under the age of 18 years, you can apply to Court to deal with the estate.  You will need to appoint one other person to act alongside you.  The rules in this area are complex and you will need legal advice.

4. My wife has died without a Will. Will I still be entitled to all her estate?

Not necessarily.   If your late wife has children (either with yourself or from a previous relationship) then you may end up sharing the estate with them.     It all depends upon how much your wife’s estate was worth.  If it was worth over £250,000.00 then you, as her widower, you will be entitled to the first £250,000.00 and all the personal possessions.   You will then have an interest in half of the remainder estate but her children will be entitled to the other half of the remaining estate.  This does, of course, come as a shock to a lot of surviving spouses in this situation.

5. My brother, Patrick, died without leaving a Will. We did have another brother, William, but sadly he died some years ago leaving children.   Does this make me entitled to all of Patrick’s estate?

Sorry, that’s not the case.  William’s children are also equally entitled to administer and share in the estate alongside you.  They simply take William’s place.

6. I have an intestate estate what should I do?

An Intestacy can be a complex matter and seeking legal advice at the outset is a must.   We offer no obligation consultations.  To book your consultation please call our team on 02392 505 500 or enqs@donnelly-elliott.co.uk.

If you a reading this article and you have not made a Will we would strongly advise that you put arrangement in place at the earliest possible opportunity.

As part of their commitment to excellence in this field, Donnelly and Elliott Solicitors are proud to be accredited members of the Law Society’s Wills & Inheritance Quality Scheme

Date: February 2018

Donnelly & Elliott Limited Solicitors|38 Stoke Road Gosport Hampshire PO12 1JG |02392 505 500| www.gosport-solicitors.co.ukImportant Note: The above information is for general guidance and in part forms the opinion of the author. It is based on the law as at the date of this note. It should not be relied upon in part or in whole as a substitute for independent legal advice.  If any of the issues raised in this article effect you please contact a member of our team.