Intestacy – No Will
If someone dies without a Will, that person is said to have died ‘intestate’ and his/her estate is distributed according to sections 66 to 75 (Part VI) of the Succession Act 1965, also known as the ‘Rules of Intestacy’. In order to distribute the assets, a grant of letters of administration (the “grant”) is required.
Rules of Intestacy in Ireland
The Rules of Intestacy are briefly summarised out below.
If the deceased is survived by :-
- spouse/civil partner but no children – spouse/civil partner gets the entire estate
- spouse/civil partner and children – spouse/civil partner gets two-thirds of the estate, the remaining one-third of the estate is divided equally between children (if a child has already died his/her children take the share of the pre-deceased parent equally between them)
- parents, no spouse/civil partner and no children – estate divided equally to both parents or entirely to one parent if only one survives.
- Children and no spouse/civil partner – the estate is divided equally between deceased’s children (as above)
- brothers and sisters only – the estate is divided equally between the deceased’s siblings. The children of a pre-deceased sibling are entitled to receive that sibling’s share of the estate in equal shares
- nieces and nephews only – the estate is divided equally between those surviving the deceased
- other relatives – divided equally between nearest equal relationship. In this case, lineal is preferred over non-linear descendants or ascendants.
- no relatives – the state (Ireland)
Crucially, apart from adopted children and some children born through the use of donor assisted human reproductive technologies (DAHR)1, only relatives related by blood are entitled to a share of the deceased person’s estate under the Rules of Intestacy. Whilst half-relatives are treated equally2 on intestacy, step-children and step-siblings are not entitled to inherit on intestacy and there is at present no court-relief available to anyone harshly affected by this rule3. However, in Ireland, both marital and non-marital children have equal rights under succession legislation4.
Deceased domiciled outside Ireland
It is important to note that where a person dies domiciled outside of Ireland, Irish Rules of Intestacy will only apply to the distribution of land or buildings (often described as to as ‘immovable property’) located in Ireland owned by the deceased on death. This is also called the ‘lex situs’ rule in private international law.
Where the deceased died domiciled elsewhere, leaving no Will, movable property (ie bank accounts and shares, for example) is distributed according to the rules of the deceased’s country of domicile according to the ‘lex domicilii’ rule.
Therefore, where the deceased had a foreign domicile, owned both immovable and movable property (ie bank accounts or shares, for example) on death, two separate sets of intestacy rules would apply to the distribution of the deceased’s estate.
2Section 72 of the Succession Act 1965
3Save that a deed of family arrangement could be entered into by all parties entitled to inherit under the Rules of Intestacy. Consent from all parties entitled to inherit from the estate is required for a deed of family arrangement to be effective.
4See Section 3 of the Status of Children Act 1987