Rules of Intestacy, your Will- England & Wales - UK Legal Info.

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Rules of Intestacy, your will - England and Wales

Rules of Intestacy - England and Wales

by: Martin Goldstraw

If you die without making a Will, the State makes one for you. At present in England and Wales, your estate is distributed as follows: 

1.With no children, parents, brothers, sisters, nephews or nieces - the spouse inherits everything. 

2.If there are children, the spouse takes the personal chattels (car, furniture, clothing etc.) and 125,000 and INCOME ONLY from HALF of the residue (the balance) The children are entitled to half the residue when they are 18 (or if they marry earlier) PLUS the other half of the residue on the death of the surviving parent. 

3.If there are no children but there are parents, brothers, sisters, nephews or nieces, then the spouse takes the personal chattels plus 200,000 plus half the residue. 

The other half of the residue is given in order to either:

a) parent(s) or if they are dead then to

b) brothers and sisters or if they are dead then to nephews and nieces  

4.If there is no surviving spouse then everything is taken by:

a) children but if none then by

b) parents  but if none then by

c) brother, sisters or nephews and nieces

d) grandparents but if none then by

e) uncles, aunts or cousins - but if none then by

f) The Crown 

Can you see any problems with the above arrangements? Do you know anyone who would be pleased to have their property disposed of according to one of the above formulae.? 

There are so many well documented cases of extreme hardship and difficulty resulting from people dying intestate. 

Effects of Intestacy 

Mr and Mrs Williams were both aged 55. They had a son aged 23 and a married daughter of 27. Mr Williams had recently inherited a house from his mother and had sold this for 80,000; He had invested half this money in shares and the other half was on deposit in the Building Society.

Mr Williams died unexpectedly without leaving a Will. He had been expecting to retire within the next few years and had built up 93,000 in his pension fund - he was also insured for a death in service benefit of 4 times his salary. He was earning 24,000 at the time. Fortunately, Mr and Mrs Williams had paid off their mortgage and their house was in joint names.

Excluding the house and personal chattels, Mr Williams left an estate of 269,000. Because there was no Will, Mrs Williams was allowed 125,000 absolutely. Of the remaining 144,000, Mrs Williams was entitled to 72,000 to provide an income - but she is not allowed to spend any of this capital -  she has to pass this on to her son and daughter.

The other 72,000 should be divided between the son and daughter. Mrs Williams daughter and son-in-law were running their own business; within 15 months of Mr Williams death, their business ran into trouble accumulating large debts. The daughter's inheritance of 36,000 was counted among their assets and she had no option but to take this sum of money out of the family funds ......... 

The story above is fairly typical. Probably, Mr Williams would have wanted his wife to have full unrestricted access to his estate. Mrs Williams is now much less comfortably provided for than she would have been if Mr Williams had written a straightforward Will. But there are many worse examples. 

If the house is not in joint names or if the estate is not passing between husband and wife then it frequently occurs that the family home has to be sold to meet the requirements of the Intestacy Rules.

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About The Author

Martin Goldstraw is the principal of a legal services company and specialises in Wills and Estate Planning. You are advised to seek proper legal advice before writing a Will. All laws cited in this article are based upon English Law. martin@goldstraw.org.uk

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