Q: I cared for my parents for many years and when my father died I moved in with my mother to look after her in the family home. I have a sister but she offered no help when I was looking after either parent and in fact rarely ever made contact with me or them. Now my mother has passed away and there is no trace of a Will, either in the house or with any local Solicitors. Is my estranged Sister entitled to an equal share of my mother's estate?
A: In the absence of a Will a person is said to have died ‘intestate'. The Law dictates, in the Intestate Succession Rules ("The Rules"), how the deceased's property is shared out. If your Father also died intestate and the value of his assets was within the Statutory Legacy, then on his death those assets would have passed to your Mother. Any joint assets (including the family home if it were owned as Joint Tenants) would pass to your mother automatically rather than forming part of his estate.
On your mother's death, The Rules state that you and your Sister will share your Mother's estate equally, however unfair you may feel that is. If your Mother had re-married and then died intestate, you and your Sister may have effectively been disinherited if your Mother's estate had amounted to less than the Statutory Legacy to which her new husband would have been entitled. Currently this figure is £250,000 where the deceased leaves children.
We live in a time of complex family relationships and your question highlights the importance of seeking specialist advice from a Solicitor and making a will to ensure that your wishes are carried out after your death. If you are planning to leave a close relative out of a will, then your Solicitor will be able to advise you of any potential future claim against your estate.