When someone dies, there are various steps that must take place before the distribution of the estate occurs. If the deceased left a will, a grant of probate must be obtained before the executors and beneficiaries can administer the estate in line with the deceased’s wishes. Sometimes, individuals may not leave a will, usually because they are quite young, and their death was completely unexpected. Will disputes and financial settlements are common, but what happens when someone dies intestate?
Some people choose not to get married, but if one member of the couple dies without a will, the other could be left without any financial provisions. Losing a loved one is a difficult enough process without contentious probate disputes arising. Therefore, our professional solicitors in Streatham Hill have years of experience in dealing with family law in London and can provide expert legal advice to help you get the result you need as efficiently as possible.
The Rules of Intestacy
When a person dies without a will, their estate must be divided according to certain rules. These are called the rules of intestacy, and they state that your closest family members and relatives (your next of kin) will inherit your estate in strictly defined portions. In England, the order of priority of beneficiaries is as follows- the deceased’s spouse or civil partner, followed by children, parents, siblings and so on. Common law partners, or those who we’re in a relationship with the deceased prior to their death, are not yet legally recognised in the intestacy rules.
No matter how long you have been in a relationship, whether you live together, or if you have children together, you will not be able to inherit anything or have access to bank accounts unless you are a beneficiary of a will. If you are not married, you must seek legal advice if you wish to bring a claim. To read more about the rules of intestacy, or challenging a will if there was one drafted, please visit our news page for advice.
What Can I Do?
Unmarried partners still have some rights when their partner dies, and you can start legal proceedings in some instances. If you jointly owned a house in equal shares, also known as a joint tenancy, full ownership automatically transfers to you, so that you can rest assured that you won’t be evicted or be forced to sell. If the deceased had taken out life insurance policies or pensions and has named, you as beneficiary. When a ‘Death in Service’ clause is included in their work benefits and you were the named beneficiary, you may also receive a payment from their employer.
You may also be able to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. If you were financially dependent on the deceased and have lived with them for two years or more, you can make a claim and prove that you were partially or fully dependent. You should seek legal advice first, and our will disputes solicitors here at Van Eaton Solicitors can guide you through this process and advise you upon the merits or otherwise, of any potential claim.
The Importance of Making a Will
It is highly recommended that you make a will, especially if you are in ill health or you are getting older. The average age for making a will is increasing; in 2019, individuals were around 56 years old before making a will. You must be older than 18 and have testamentary capacity, and if you choose not to get married to your partner, making a will is essential in ensuring that you receive some of your estate commensurate with your input.
Here at Van Eaton Solicitors in Streatham Hill, we will always work to ensure that you avoid court proceedings wherever possible during your will disputes case, advising on the best course of action to ensure you get the result you need. If you would like to book a free consultation, please get in touch with us by calling 0208 769 6739. Alternatively, you can fill out our online form.