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Intestacy is the condition of the estate of a person who dies without having made a valid will or other binding declaration. Common law sharply distinguished between real property and chattels. Where a person dies without leaving a will, the rules of succession of the person’s place of habitual residence or of their domicile often apply, but it is also common for the principality where the property is located to have jurisdiction regardless of the decedent’s residence or domicile. In most contemporary common-law jurisdictions, the law of intestacy is patterned after the common law of descent.
The rules of succession are the Intestacy Rules set out in the Administration of Estates Act and associated legislation. The Act sets out the order for distribution of property in the estate of the deceased. If there are no children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren then the spouse or civil partner inherits the entire estate. 250,000, then half of everything else passing under the intestacy rules. The other half passes to the children equally at 18, with provision for grandchildren whose parents have died before the intestate deceased. In larger estates, the spouse will not receive the entire estate where the deceased left other blood relatives and left no will.
Where no beneficiaries can be traced, see bona vacantia. The law on intestacy in Scotland broadly follows that of England and Wales with some variations. Once a class is ‘exhausted’, succession continues to the next line of ascendants, followed by siblings, and so on. In Canada the laws vary from province to province. As in England, most jurisdictions apply rules of intestate succession to determine next of kin who become legal heirs to the estate. Also, as in England, if no identifiable heirs are discovered, the property may escheat to the government.
In the United States intestacy laws vary from state to state. Each of the separate states uses its own intestacy laws to determine the ownership of residents’ intestate property. Federal law controls intestacy of Native Americans. Many states have adopted all or part of the Uniform Probate Code, but often with local variations, In Ohio, the law of intestate succession has been modified significantly from the common law, and has been essentially codified. Where does everything go without a Will?