The intestacy rules set out who inherits a person's estate where they have died without leaving a valid Will (known as dying intestate).
The beneficiaries of the estate vary depending on whether or not the deceased was married and also based on whether or not they had children, regardless of whether or not those children are over 18.
Contrary to popular belief, a surviving spouse does not automatically inherit the estate. If the deceased also had children then the spouse would receive a statutory legacy (i.e a fixed cash amount) and half of the remainder of the estate, known as the residue. The children would receive the other half of the residue of the estate.
The amount of the statutory legacy is set out in law and, as of July 2023, has been increased to £322,000 (remaining at £270,000 for any deaths before 1 July 2023).
Please note that "common law spouses" are not recognised under the intestacy rules and so do not benefit under the intestacy rules. Any long term partner would need to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975, usually referred to as 1975 Act claims, in order to receive a benefit from the estate.
Because the intestacy rules can often lead to unwanted results we would always recommend that people put Wills in place, rather than relying on “the law”. This is particularly important where you are unmarried or where you have children from an earlier relationship, as it is possible to prepare a Will which would guarantee your children’s inheritance without leaving your spouse high and dry.
If you would like to discuss an estate subject to the intestacy rules, or if you would like help preparing your Will please contact Ashley Minott by email or on 01494 893518.