Writing a will ensures that all the different parts of your estate will be inherited by the appropriate people and avoids the long, often expensive rules of intestacy. However, stats from a 2015 YouGov survey suggested that only 38% of the public throughout England and Wales had a will prepared in case they passed away.

When a will isn’t present, it can complicate the process of passing ownership of the deceased’s property. The rules of intestacy are those that must be followed if a will is non-existent or invalid and depending on living relatives, the entire estate could be given to one person or split among many family members.

Under current laws, an immediate spouse would be given the entire estate including the house. This means that they will have complete control over what happens to it and will potentially be dealing with the various taxes such as inheritance tax or capital gains tax if the house is sold. However, if the deceased is not married or in a civil partnership, then ownership of the home will go to the nearest living blood relative, which the law prioritises in order of:

  1. Children
  2. Parents
  3. Siblings (or their descendants)
  4. Half siblings (or their descendants)
  5. Grandparents
  6. Uncles and Aunts (or their descendants)
  7. Half uncles and aunts (or their descendants)
  8. The whole estate is passed to the crown

Dealing with the estate of someone who has died without writing a will can be complex and the process could take months to find those who are eligible to become beneficiaries. During this time, it’s only natural to worry about the payments on the home. However, lenders and banks tend to be sympathetic to these kinds of circumstances and most mortgages have a grace period to allow for arrangements to be made.

Once all the living beneficiaries have been found, the property could be equally owned by several people. The best-case scenario could be to quickly sell the house to ensure each beneficiary can receive their part of the estate.

When a family member dies without a will, you could find yourself inheriting a property that you were not prepared for. If you’re the sole owner of the house and can afford to take over the payments, then renting or moving into it can be a viable option. However, the rules of intestacy can complicate things and often most of the beneficiaries may agree the best course of action would be to quickly sell the house, settle the debts and then decide what to do with the remainder of the estate.

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