Where a person dies without making a valid Will, it is said that they have died intestate and the property is distributed according to rules laid down in the Administration of Estates Act. The rules applicable depend on which, if any, relations survive the deceased, but if a spouse survives he or she will be entitled to at least the first £250,000 (£125,000 if the death was before 1st February 2009) and all the personal possessions. The children receive the other half of the residue of the estate in equal shares.
Unmarried cohabitants of a deceased person may be able to apply for financial provision from the estate if they have lived with the deceased as husband and wife throughout the period of two years prior to death. Where a personal representative is acting for someone who has died without making a Will, the advice of a solicitor should be sought as to how the rules apply in the specific case.
As the value of the home may exceed the amount that a spouse may inherit (under the rules of intestacy) the family members may agree to renounce their share to prevent the house having to be sold. This may be achieved by a Deed of Variation (Deed of Family Arrangement). This Deed may also be used to change the terms of a Will (within two years of the date of death) to reduce inheritance tax liability. Help from a solicitor may be needed with the drafting of the Deed. If a Will does not make provision for the residue of the estate a partial intestacy may be created, and the above mentioned rules will then apply.