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Wills or Intestacy? The Corona Virus Legacy

There are thousands of questions that may run in a person’s mind after certain diagnoses, short terminal illness or even severe covid-19 cases. It ranges from who inherits my estate and by how much, to who should take care of my kids and pets. The answer is, without a will, it is not as straight forward as one may think and it is even daring when you have other families or properties elsewhere outside the UK.

The Plaque of Covid-19 places everybody in vulnerable position; from the royal family, heads of Government to the homeless. Hundreds of people who are unable to fight the virus, die daily in UK. Every one of these deaths are sad and disheartening moment for the family and loved ones. Who could expect things could get worse? Dying without a will has plenty of unintended consequences, many of which can be tough on the family left behind.

It will not be uncommon to hear stories of patients of Covid-19 attempting to deliver a message to health care professionals about the apportionment of his/her estates after their death. But this may be rather too late. Yes we all may depart one day and we may have wishes as to who must enjoy what we have laboured for. This article will attempt to explain what happens in the event one dies without making a will and the essence of a wills and trust in these difficult times.

A will or testament is a legal document that expresses a person's wishes as to how their property is to be distributed and affairs managed after their death. The current intestacy rules in the UK are primarily the Intestates’ Estates Act 1952, Administration of Estates Act, 1925 and the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014. They outline a rigid straight forward procedure the distribution of deceased estate and management of his successors. Of course the state will not know who matters to you the most, and therefore had established this blanket provision for all who care less about their estate disbursement. The rule is outline later in this article.

What happens to deceased partner/ cohabitee?

Cohabiting couples are the second-largest family type in UK at 3.4 million (17.9%). Despite this huge number, the law makes no provision for entitlement in the estate should one party die.  This means, irrespective of the lengthy commitment and struggle of live together, in the event of death, you are entitled to nothing of his/her notwithstanding your support.

I recount the ordeal of Witney in Sussex who had lived with her ‘Partner’ over a 9 year period. During this time she had contributed immensely to the partner’s studies and business and both were planning to tie the knot in 2 months. Whiles driving home one day from work, he had a serious accident, and was in coma for almost a month. Witney had to stop working and care for him during these times.  Unfortunately he passed away.  All his estate by law reverts to his parents, including his estranged father who was never in his life. As an Unmarried partner, Whitney was entitled to nothing, she had lost her job, lost her partner and worse of all threatened with eviction from the deceased property, although she paid part of the mortgage, the title was in her partner’s name only. Her only option was to apply to court for financial provision from the partner’s estate (As she had lived with the deceased over 2 years) or argue that there was a Joint tenancy in place due to her contribution (Lloyds Bank plc v Rosset), who could imagine the legal cost, etc. Clearly she would not be the only terrified person in this case; her partner would too, and may be kicking off in the coffin.

What happens to deceased children?

For parents with young children, you may want to know who will take care of your children in such scenario. If the other parent is alive, he/she will take over, however where there are no other parents, your siblings or parents or the other partners parent cannot take over, no no no, not so smooth. The rules indicate that the court or the local council shall decide who will look after the children. The children will therefore be under social care for the length of period the council requires, to choose someone to bare such responsibility. It may well be a person you may vehemently disagree, or never want close to your child.

UK Intestacy Inheritance Tree

Wills or Intestacy? The Corona Virus Legacy

Nothing in the rules expands the distribution of the estate outside this scope to (Co- habitants, step children, friends or even pets) so when none of this family are in existence, the estate of the deceased shall revert to the crown. It is obvious this rules are rigid and takes no account of the individual’s actual wishes. Making a will is therefore not only wise, but an absolute guidance to controlling one’s legacy.

Please contact us for advice/queries on drafting a comprehensive wills or enquiring about estate planning solutions.

Disclaimer: No material or information provided on this website should be construed as legal advice. Readers should always seek appropriate professional advice to resolve their Legal Matters.
About the Author

  Clement Mensah

Clement is an Associate handling Immigration, Wills and Estate Planning matters with a strong legal academic background having completed BSc in Land Economy and pursuing Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) from Nottingham Law School.

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