When a person dies without leaving a valid will, their property (the estate) must be shared out according to certain rules. These are called the rules of intestacy. A person who dies without leaving a will is called an intestate person. Only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under the rules of intestacy. If someone makes a will but it is not legally valid, the rules of intestacy decide how the estate will be shared out, not the wishes expressed in the will. In this article, what happens to my property if I don’t have a Will, we take a look at the options open to you.
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What happens If you own your property solely in your name?
If you own your home in your sole name and you die without a Will in place, then the law will decide who will inherit it from you, under strict inheritance laws called the Rules of Intestacy. The Rules of Intestacy determine who is entitled to inherit from you if you die without a valid Will in place. They place your relatives in an order of priority, as follows:
- Spouse or civil partner
- Grandchildren/great grandchildren
- Aunts and uncles
- Half aunts and half uncles
The intention of the Rules of Intestacy is to ensure that the next of kin of the deceased receive the inheritance that they are entitled to. Unfortunately, it’s not always as straight forward as that and some modern-day family arrangements aren’t accounted for. For example, unmarried partners and step-children are not recognised under the rules.
What happens if you own the house jointly?
If you own your home jointly, there are two ways in which the property can be owned. This is either as Joint Tenants or as Tenants in Common.
If you and another person own the property together as Joint Tenants, then this means that you jointly own the property as a whole, with neither you nor the other owner having an identifiable share. When a house is owned jointly as Joint Tenants, if one of the owners dies then the ownership of the property will automatically transfer to the surviving owner. If for whatever reason the house is not registered at the Land Registry, your executors should place a copy of your death certificate with the deeds to the house. If the house is registered at the Land Registry your executors should contact the Land Registry to remove your name from the register of owners.
If you own the property with another person as Tenants in Common, you and the co-owner will each own a specific share of the property. In this situation, if you were to die with no Will in place, then the co-owner of the house would not automatically inherit your share of the home. Instead, your share would be passed down in line with the Rules of Intestacy. Your executors (or administrators if you did not leave a Will) will need to obtain a grant of probate (or a grant of letters of administration) from the court to transfer your share of the house to the new owner. They will then need to employ a conveyancer to transfer your share of the house to the new owner or owners.
The importance of writing a Will
Knowing in what capacity you own your house is, therefore, important. Additionally, it is essential that you write a Will so that your final wishes are clearly laid out.
A Will is a legal document explaining your last wishes and can include who you would like to leave your assets to, what your funeral arrangements should be and also perhaps setting up trusts for loved ones to ensure their financial security or instructions to leave something to your favourite charity.
How we can help
We have a proven track-record of helping clients write their Will and deal with the process of probate. We will guide you through all the necessary legal due diligence in a comprehensive and timely manner. We firmly believe that with the right solicitors by your side, the entire process will seem more manageable and far less daunting.
How to Contact our Wills and Probate Solicitors
It is important for you to be well informed about the issues and possible implications of dealing with probate matters. We can provide the support and guidance you need to get through the process as simply and straightforwardly as possible.
To speak to our Wills and Probate solicitors today, simply call us on 0345 901 0445, or allow a member of the team to get back to you by filling in our online enquiry form. We are well known across the country and can assist wherever you are based. We also have offices based in Cheshire and London.