The term “Intestacy” is used where a person dies without leaving a valid Will. This means the Intestacy Rules will apply and the persons Estate will be divided as per these Rules which are set by the government.
Most people believe the Intestacy Rules mean that your belongings will pass to your next of kin; however, this is not always the case and rarely ever that simple. The matter becomes especially complicated for those who die intestate without any living relatives and the Estate could potentially be paid to the Crown.
For more information about the Intestacy Rules, look out for our blog that is coming soon on the subject.
What if I have no apparent family?
An intestate death for people with no connected or apparent family opens up a whole new chapter most people are not aware of. It can cause issues with regards to disposing of the body but also who inherits what and, most importantly, who takes on responsibility for undertaking all the tasks involved in administering an Estate.
The consequences of Intestacy
The Latin term “Bona Vacantia” simply means “vacant or ownerless goods” and in the context of intestacy is simply means “no heirs”.
According to recent research and the list which is available to the general public, at the moment there are over 14,000 Estates which are looked after by the HM Government Legal Department and most of the Estate are referred to them by:
the bereavement office (very commonly);
In addition to this, over 3,000 Estates are known to be worth more than £15,000 and some even many millions according to the Government.
Under the law, an Estate should be claimed within 12 years of the intestate’s death but under Bona Vacantia it can be extended to 30 years or more at their discretion.
Furthermore, under Government’s discretionary powers, it is not necessary to be an entitled relative (by blood and/or name) to inherit. You can be merely someone who was ‘close’ to the intestate for whom they may have made some provisions in their Will “had they made a Will” would be sufficient. In other words this could simply be cooking, cleaning and helping the intestate in any other way.
A complete industry has evolved due to people dying intestate in recent years known as “Heir Hunting”. This is where heirs to an intestate estate are tracked down on contingency commission based contracts.
Research shows an increase of heirs self-claiming an inheritance; however claimants are often unaware of their legal obligations to trace others who might be entitled and may find that not all of the inheritance (or in fact any of it) is theirs.
A potential claimant will only need to prove that he or she is a blood relative by submitting documentary evidence to prove their relationship to the deceased. This will ensure that they have a prior claim to the Crown who will take the money otherwise.
Having said this, there have been instances where claimants have been taken aback when they found out that another relative has a better claim and entitled to either more or all of the estate and they are left with nothing despite personally funding the cost of the claim and going through the hassle.
What can I do about it?
When looking back at the above the easier option would be to simply make a basic Will which is inexpensive, easy to do and clearly sets out your wishes.
At B legal Solicitors we pride ourselves in giving our clients clear and precise advice, which is easy to understand and follow. We are more than happy to sit down with you and discuss your issues, concerns and what you would like to achieve from your Will in our free, no-obligation half hour consultation.