In the event of a death, a will is critical. They ensure that the distribution of the deceased’s assets is done according to their wishes. It guarantees their loved ones are cared for and are left with the parts of their estate that they wanted them to have.
Sadly, many people pass on without ever writing a will. Young people particularly feel as though it is an unnecessary precaution that will be out of date by the time it is actually needed.
Unfortunately, accidents and other unexpected forms of death do occur. When this happens and there is no valid will, a number of legal issues arise.
When someone passes without a legal will, this is known as dying intestate. When this happens, the deceased’s assets are distributed according to the laws of intestacy. These laws are strict in their hierarchy and rarely align with the nuances of personal circumstances.
The assets of the deceased are distributed in the following order of priority:
To The Spouse Or Civil Partner
The highest-ranked inheritor under the laws of intestacy is a married partner or a civil partner. They will usually inherit all of the deceased’s assets. Take note that the partner must be legally married or in a civil partnership.
A separated or estranged partner can (and usually does) inherit according to the laws of intestacy. On the other hand, a partner who has lived with the deceased for many years has no legal claim to their assets whatsoever under these laws.
To The Child Or Children
If there is no surviving spouse, then the inheritance moves on to the children of the deceased. If there is more than one child, then the inheritance will be split evenly among them.
Grandchildren Or Great Grandchildren
If there are no surviving spouses or children, then the inheritance continues to move down the line of direct decedents. This could theoretically continue down many generations until a direct descendent inherits.
Other Close Relatives
If there is no spouse, civil partner, child, grandchild etc, then the laws of intestacy move down to close relatives. They run in this order of priority:
No Surviving Relatives
If there are no surviving relatives, then the estate passes to the state. This is called bona vacantia.
Can The Inheritance Be Changed Under Intestacy?
Technically, yes. It is possible to change how the estate of the deceased is shared after their death without a will. All it requires is for everyone who would inherit under the rules of intestacy to agree to it.
In practice, the odds of everyone in that hierarchy agreeing to alter the amount of inheritance they receive are small.
Looking to avoid subjecting your loved ones to the law of intestacy? Contact Crowley & Company today to begin the process of writing a will. Our team provides professional and compassionate advice on how best to arrange your affairs.
Don’t leave writing a will until it’s too late. Contact us today.