What Happens to an Estate if there is No Will?

When a person dies without making a will or if their will cannot be located, is deemed false or invalid (for not meeting the statutory requirements), it’s called dying intestate. The Succession Act, 1965 has a set of statutory rules governing who is entitled to receive a person’s property if they die intestate. These rules are commonly known as the ‘rules of intestacy’ or the ‘rules of intestate succession’.

If a person dies intestate, the Irish intestacy laws will determine who gets what from your estate. Your estate will go to probate and the court will appoint an administrator. An administrator is a legal term referring to a person appointed by a court to administer an estate. This person will settle debts; pay any necessary taxes and funeral expenses and distribute the remainder of your estate to your heirs in accordance with the state laws of distribution.

Quite often, the application of the rules of intestacy results in the distribution of a deceased person’s property in a manner that they would never have wanted. This is because the rules set out a list of people (known as ‘heirs’) who are entitled to receive shares in the deceased’s property; as well as the amount of these shares and the order in which they are entitled to receive them.

In an intestacy situation, the first beneficiaries to receive the deceased’s property are the surviving spouse and then the children of the deceased. However, if there is no surviving spouse or children, then the general rule of thumb is that the bigger the estate is, the more distant the relatives who will inherit part of it. Such beneficiaries might include the deceased’s grandchildren, parents, siblings, grandparents, nieces and nephews, cousins and so on. In those rare cases where no relatives can be found the deceased’s property will revert to the Irish government’s treasury.

The Main Disadvantages of Not Making a Will Include?
  • The costs of probate rise due to increased legal and professional fees. This will dramatically decrease the value of the assets transferred your family and loved ones;
  • Your estate will be divided up in accordance with Irish State law; this may result in assets not being transferred as you would have wished. For example that necklace you always wished to give to your daughter or the ring you hoped to one day give to your son may be gifted to others or used to pay debts of the estate.

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