Intestacy rules apply in the event of an intestate death. In other words, when a person dies and there is no will. The laws of intestacy govern what happens to the deceased estate, including who becomes the administrator and who the beneficiaries are.
If a spouse, partner or relative has died intestate, it is recommended that you seek legal advice immediately. The intestacy rules are complex and the probate process is not as straight-forward.
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When a person leaves a will, the probate process is a lot more straight-forward, the executor/s is named in the will and makes the application for probate. When the deceased has failed to name who they'd like to manage their affairs these rules apply. There is a hierarchy in place in which Governs who is legally entitled to apply for letters of administration to represent and manage the estate. This hierarchy is as follows:
Note that common law spouses have no rights to apply. Children under the age of 18 must apply with a second person.
The statutory intestacy rules also referred to the laws of intestacy will determine how the estate is distributed. This is not ideal and disputes can arise when relations will not benefit at all from the estate or when they feel the inheritance is an insufficient amount to provide for them. For example, the deceased's spouse will inherit the first £250,000 of the estate and half of the remainder as a life interest. The other half will be inherited by the children of the deceased. Inheritance tax liability is far from optimal. In this situation, IHT at 40% would then have to be paid on everything above the nil rate band. There are ways to minimalise this, in some cases a deed of variation can be drawn up but only providing everyone affected agrees.
The probate process can be fraught with complications for administrators who become liable for mistakes and misinterpretations of the intestacy rules. Contact a professional for impartial advice.