It has been revealed that the queen of soul, who died last month at the age of 76, had no will in place when she died.The estate is believed to be worth around $80m, and is to be split equally between her four sons in accordance with Michigan intestacy laws. Would this have been different had there have been a valid will in place?Let’s take a look at what happens in the UK when a person dies intestate (without a will):
- The courts will appoint administrators, who take responsibility for gathering in the deceased’s assets, paying all debts, and eventually distributing the estate.
- The surviving spouse may not automatically inherit everything from the deceased.
- If the deceased and their partner were not married, then the surviving partner has no absolute right to inherit any assets, though they might be able to make a claim for limited maintenance funds.
- If there are minor children in the family with no surviving guardians then they will become wards of social services while their guardianship is settled – the final decision may not match with their parents’ wishes.
- The deceased’s estate will be divided amongst the closest blood relatives first, and to increasingly further relatives if no closer family members are living. These intestacy rules do not allow the deceased to increase the benefit to any one individual, or to exclude a particular person (e.g. an estranged child) if they have not written a will.
The distribution of Aretha Franklin’s estate might seem fair on the surface. Consider, however, what might happen to people who have an estranged child or children. How would the other children feel, knowing that an unsupportive or distant sibling might inherit equally with themselves? The intestacy rules do not suit all, or even many estates.
A will, on the other hand, should be a bespoke document, tailor-made to take a client’s personal and financial circumstances – as well as their wishes – into account.
Anthony Coyle at APS Legal & Associates offers specialist advice in the Maidenhead and surrounding areas. Advice not just on the right will for you but on Lasting Powers of Attorney; Trusts that can protect your estate to ensure it gets passed down to the right beneficiaries; Probate and support for executors; Will storage; Care home and Inheritance tax planning.