In 2008 a friend of mine, Mandy, lost her brother, John, to cancer. He was 35 years old and left behind a long-term partner, Jane.
During a recent visit, whilst talking about Wills, I asked Mandy if her parents had made a Will and she replied “My parents don’t need a Will. If anything happens to them, everything they have is to be shared between Jane and I. My parents intend to leave Jane what they would have left to John had he been alive to take his inheritance”.
I then had to inform Mandy of the reality of the situation. A person who dies without having made a Will risks leaving their estate to beneficiaries who might not have been their first choice. If there is no Will, the Intestacy Rules decide who inherits, and, in this instance, there would be no provision for Jane.
The Intestacy Rules presently state that if a person dies without leaving a Will, that person’s surviving spouse inherits the first £250,000 of the deceased’s estate, together with any possessions, and anything over and above that £250,000 is then divided into two equal shares: the first share passes to the surviving spouse but the remainder is shared between any surviving children. In Mandy’s case, the surviving parent inherits the first £250,000, and if the estate is worth more, Mandy would be legally entitled to take half of that surplus. Jane receives nothing.
I asked Mandy “What do you think would happen if you and your parents were all killed in the same road accident?” Mandy naively suggested Jane would inherit what her parents wanted her to inherit, i.e. their son, John’s entitlement. Again, I had to inform Mandy that was not the case. Mandy has a son, Carl, who would inherit everything.
The Intestacy Rules can be complicated. I recently acted for a lady who nursed her brother through the last 18 months of his life. When he eventually died, I was instructed to administer his estate. It duly came to light that my client was, in fact, not a full sister – she and the deceased shared one parent only (the law refers to her as a sister of the half-blood as they had different fathers but the same mother). There was, however, another sister who wasn’t close to the deceased at all, but as she had the same parents as her brother, under the Intestacy Rules, she, a sister of the whole-blood, has a greater entitlement. Sadly, the sister who had nursed her brother during the last 18 months of his life ultimately received nothing, but the sister who had little contact with him inherited everything.
The Intestacy Rules are not straight-forward and the only way you can be certain that your estate will pass to the people you want it to pass to is to make a Will. If we can help you with your Will, please call us on 01256 320555 and book an appointment. We will do what we can to ensure your estate will pass to the beneficiaries you want it to pass to.
Wills & Estate Planning Legal Executive