To die intestate means to die without leaving a will and an intestate estate is distributed according to the intestacy rules. These are more complex than many people realise, but they do operate overall to leave the estate to surviving family members.
Generally, where no will can be produced, the estate will be dealt with as an intestate estate – but not always. In a recent case, the widow and daughter of a man claimed that he had died intestate. However, two neighbours who had helped the daughter go through her late father’s papers recalled seeing a copy of a will, which gave bequests in favour of charities. The neighbours stood to receive no benefit from the estate. The man’s solicitor also recalled drawing up the will.
The court concluded that it was improbable that both the neighbours and the solicitor would independently make the same allegation when they had no personal interest in the outcome. In the circumstances, the court ruled that the deceased had made a will which was in favour of the charities.
This case was unusual in that it is not common for a will to be imputed when none can be produced. It was also unusual for there not to be a copy of the will held independently by the solicitor, a relative or in a bank deposit box.
When preparing your will, it is sensible to ensure that a copy is held so that if the original is lost or destroyed, the estate can be administered efficiently in accordance with your wishes and without unnecessary costs.