There are several scenarios in which you might choose to challenge the distribution of an individual’s estate following their death. Two of the most common are through making an inheritance claim or by contesting a will. But what is the difference between them and what exactly do they mean?
Intestacy rules are what govern the distribution of an individual’s assets without leaving behind a will. As in these cases there is nothing from the deceased to determine how they would’ve wished to portion out their estate, the rules of intestacy tend to be fairly strict and distributed according to the proximity of individuals to the deceased.
For example, if the person was married when they died, then everything goes to the spouse. If they have children as well, then it is split between the surviving parent and the children. It is very rare that an estate will be passed to a person who lived with the deceased as if they were married but was not actually married to them. Under these circumstances, the surviving partner may wish to challenge the rules of intestacy in order to make a claim.
Through this, as long as they have lived with the deceased for at least 2 years, they may receive a portion of the estate for maintenance purposes. If the deceased person was single and childless, then their estate will be distributed among other family. This can include parents, siblings and their descendants, grandparents, aunts and uncles and their children.
By contrast, contesting a will is what happens when the deceased person has left behind a will but someone feels they have a legitimate inheritance claim that has not been catered for in the will. This could be because the will is invalid, the person was not of sound mind when they made it or because the person contesting the will was a financial dependant of the deceased.
It’s important to remember that this can be a complicated – an emotional – area of law, so if you are thinking of challenging the intestacy rules or contesting a will, then it’s advisable to seek avocat succession legal advice before you do so.