When a person dies without having made a valid Will, intestacy will be the condition that is imposed on their estate. It only applies if the estate is worth more than any debts and funeral expenses. There can also be something called partial intestacy where such a Will has been made but only part of it is seen to be valid.
In England and Wales, the intestacy rules are supplemented by the discretionary provisions in the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 so that a fair provision is made for any dependent spouse, partner or other relative, where the strict divisions of the intestacy rules has resulted in an unfair outcome. Children who should be entitled to some of the deceased estate because they are disabled or financially dependent on the deceased at the time of death, but were not included in the intestacy rules, will then be able to claim for a fair provision. If a person dies without having made a Will and has no heirs, the persons estate will usually then be legally assigned to the crown. In some exceptional cases, a discretionary distribution will be made by the crown that would otherwise be without entitlement under strict application of the rules of inheritance.
The rules of succession in relation to the Intestacy Rules are set out in the Administration of Estates Act and other associated legislation. It sets out the order of which the property will be distributed of the deceased estate. For persons with surviving children and an estate that comes below the 250,000, the surviving spouse will receive the whole estate. If someone dies with no surviving children but close relatives who are still alive, such as brothers and sister or parents, the first 450,000 will go to the surviving spouse or civil partner. In these situations the transfers will be exempt from inheritance tax. In estates that are larger than the above thresholds, the spouse will not receive the entire estate where the deceased has other blood relatives still alive. Generally what will happen is that the surviving spouse will receive all property passing to them through survivorship (therefore they owned property as joint tenants). They will also receive all property that has passed to them under the terms of a trust, for example in a life insurance policy or pension scheme as well as they will be entitled to any statutory legacy of a fixed sum (it will be larger if the deceased had no surviving children). A surviving spouse will be entitled to a life interest in half of the remaining estate. Any children who are left of the deceased will be entitled to half of the estate that is remaining and be entitled to the other half on the death of the surviving spouse.
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