Who Inherits if You Die Interstate?
Death is never an easy topic for discussion; however, if you have ever had to handle the estate of someone who passed away without a will, it is a discussion you will wish you’d not avoided. When someone passes away, and they do not have a written will, the estate must be divided accordingly by the rules of intestacy. Unfortunately, the rules of intestacy don’t account for the various family dynamics. For instance, multiple marriages, children, stepchildren, and divorce may lead to a legal battle if you die without a will because, under intestacy rules, only the direct family can inherit the estate. So, dying without a will may result in the important people in your life, such as an unmarried partner or your stepchildren being overlooked when the estate is distributed, while your estranged family members may benefit from a share of the estate. This brief guide will explain intestate rules and the importance of a will.
Simply put, intestacy rules state what will happen if you die without a will, including the people that can and cannot inherit from the estate. The intestacy decides who the estate will be given to, which is based on the following relationships:
Marriage Partner, Civil Partnership & Children
Although the amount of each person’s estate varies, the spouse of the deceased receives everything up to a specified value as well as the personal items of the deceased. Anything above the specified amount is divided in two; half of this goes to the children of the deceased when they reach legal age, and the remaining half is added to the existing inheritance of the deceased’s spouse.
Marriage Partner, Civil Partnership, but No Children
In the case where there are no children of the deceased, the spouse of the deceased will receive everything, which includes property, possessions, and money. Intestacy rules state that no other family members are considered in the estate.
If the deceased left behind children, but no marriage partner or a civil partnership, the children will inherit everything. All proceeds of the estate will be divided equally among all siblings, but they will only get their share of the inheritance when they reach legal age. With intestacy rules, stepchildren cannot inherit from the estate; however, adopted children can. There are no partners considered unless they were in a civil partnership or married to the deceased.
No Partner and No Children
If the deceased wasn’t married and there are no children of the deceased, the estate will go to the parents of the deceased. If the parents are deceased, the estate will be divided up depending on this order of surviving family members: siblings, unless siblings died before you, then the estate is divided among your grandparents, nieces and/or nephews, aunts and uncles, and if uncles and aunts have died before you, then it will go to your cousins.
If the deceased doesn’t have any surviving relatives, the estate goes to court. For this reason, it’s important to keep in mind that, unlike a will where you can leave all or part of your inheritance to friends and family, intestacy rules don’t allow for this. Your loved ones and others that you would want to benefit from your estate will be overlooked, and it’s possible that family members that you have no association with will be favored by the court. Intestacy rules state that close friends, unmarried partners, same-sex couples, caregivers, and stepchildren are not entitled to any part of the estate.
Importance of a Will
There are stages in your life when you will remember the importance of a will, such as when you have a child or buy a house. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to get distracted and before you know it, creating a will is going to be at the bottom of your to-do list. It’s common for most people to consider writing a will, but many often wait until it’s too late. Writing a will is something that almost everyone needs to do. Your will gives you the opportunity to name a guardian for your children, choose who will be the executor of your estate, decide where your estate will go to, donate to charity, leave personal items to your loved ones, minimize inheritance tax and make funeral requests. Although it’s possible to write your will yourself, it’s important to ensure that the final draft is legally valid, if not intestacy rules apply.
There are a variety of reasons why people don’t write a will, such as thinking that they don’t have enough to leave behind, they are too young for a will, or the process is expensive and complicated. But the most common reason why people don’t write a will is that they believe that their estate will automatically go to their immediate family. Your money, home, and personal possessions should end up with whom you want to have them, and intestacy rules may prevent your final wishes from happening.