Intestacy Scenarios

Intestacy examples of people dying without a Will in place, or without being able to update their Will.

Scenario 1

No Will, unmarried couple, no relatives

James has been living with his partner Sylvia for 35 years. They made the decision not to have children, and James has no other living relatives. They own a house together in 50/50 shares. He has made a Will leaving his share of the house and everything else to Sylvia, but he never got around to signing it. James contracts COVID-19 and is taken to hospital. Due to hospital regulations, James is unable to receive any visitors at all and so he is unable to sign his Will and have it witnessed by two witnesses as is required by the legislation and does not manage to have it video witnessed. Were James to pass away as a result of the virus, the rules of intestacy would apply:

  • his entire estate (his house, his money and all of his other possessions) would become property of the Crown
  • the Crown would be responsible for administering his estate (including decisions relating to his funeral) – Sylvia would have no right to do so
  • Sylvia would receive nothing under the rules of intestacy
  • In order to receive anything from James’ estate, Sylvia would have to apply to the court – a long, costly and uncertain process
  • Unless Sylvia can afford to buy James’ 50% of the house from the Crown at market value, the house will have to be sold and Sylvia will have to move.

Scenario 2

No Will, unmarried couple with existing relatives

Bonnie and Clyde had cohabited for 20 years but chose not to marry or enter into a civil partnership. They have no children. Clyde has a 25% in their joint home reflecting his contribution to the purchase price and Bonnie has the remaining 75% share. Bonnie dies in hospital after a short illness without a Will.

  • Bonnie has elderly parents, and so under the laws of intestacy, her 75% share of the property passes to them.
  • If Bonnie’s parents so wish, and Clyde cannot afford to pay them for their 75% share, Clyde may have to leave his home of over a decade.
  • It is Bonnie’s parents, not Clyde, who will have the right to administer her estate, including making funeral decisions – even if they decline to do so, Clyde still has no rights in this regard

Scenario 3

Out-of-date Will, divorcing couple

Boris and his wife have recently separated and are starting the process of divorce. Boris made a Will five years ago leaving his entire estate to his estranged wife. Boris is now living in his holiday home with his new partner who is pregnant with their first child. Boris becomes ill and is taken to hospital where he is prevented from signing an updated Will because of quarantine restrictions. Were Boris to pass away before he could update his will:

  • Boris’ estranged wife would inherit the entire estate per the out-of-date Will
  • the new partner has not been living with Boris for over two years so is unlikely to have a claim against the estate

Scenario 4

No Will - cohabiting couple (former marriage)

Fred and ginger have been living together as man and wife for 40 years. They own a house and have two children together. Ginger becomes ill and is taken to hospital and unable to receive visitors. Ginger did, however, get married to her childhood boyfriend, John, when she was 16 – she has not seen him for 45 years, but never got around to filing for divorce. If Ginger were to pass away before putting a Will in place:

  • John would inherit all of the assets (including Ginger’s share of the house she has lived in with Fred) up to the value of £270,000 and all of her personal possessions (regardless of value)
  • The remainder of Ginger’s belongings would be split: half to John, and the remining half further divided between her two children
  • If the Will named John as her executor, he would be the one with the right to administer her estate, including arranging her funeral
  • Fred would have to apply to the Court for any award from Ginger’s estate, but he is not automatically entitled to anything or any say

Scenario 5

Out-of-date will – additional children

Joe and Sandra are married and have two children together. They made their Will after the birth of their son John, but before the birth of their daughter Eva. Their Wills leave everything they own to each other and, in the event that they have both died, everything goes to John. Were Joe and Sandra both to die without updating their Wills, their entire combined estate would go to John, and Eva would get nothing. There are also no guardianship provisions in the Will for Eva, and so her guardian may have to be Court appointed.

Scenario 6

Intestacy: children of partner

John and Mary (unmarried) moved into a cottage they bought together three months before the birth of Mary’s eight-year-old daughter, Sally. John is not the father, but Sally refers to him as her dad and has never met her biological father. Mary has not made a Will and dies:

  • John will not get automatic custody of Sally
  • Because no guardian has been appointed by Mary in her Will, if nobody has parental responsibility, an application will have to be made to Court to determine who Sally will live with, and she may have to go into care while this is sorted out
  • Mary’s half of the house (and everything else that she owned) will automatically pass to Sally (on trust for her until she is 18) and John may be forced to sell the cottage to pay this amount to her
  • All of this upset and uncertainty might have been avoided if Mary had made a will leaving her share of the house to John and appointing John as guardian of Sally

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