• Sandra Stuart

What happens when someone dies without a will?

Dying without a will is common in Australia. Approximately half of Australian adults have not made a legally valid will. When someone dies without a will, their grieving family feels additional stress and uncertainty. Seeing a lawyer as soon as possible can relieve this pressure by arranging early access to funeral funds and gaining an understanding of estate administration processes and inheritance laws when someone has died intestate (without a will). For sympathy, understanding and help with an estate call Sandy Stuart, Principal Solicitor at Lighting Legal.

When someone has died without a will, the next of kin will need to apply to the Supreme Court for approval to administer the estate. Once Letters of Administration are granted, the estate must be administered according to law.

Succession law in each Australian state determines who will inherit when someone passes away without leaving a valid will. The laws are similar across Australia with the spouse being the primary beneficiary followed by issue (children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and so on).

In Queensland, if the deceased leaves both spouse and children, the spouse will inherit the household contents plus the first $150,000 plus half the residuary estate if there is only one child or otherwise one third of the residuary estate. The remainder is shared equally by the children (if a child has predeceased leaving children, then their children take their share in equal proportions).

In New South Wales, the spouse is entitled to the whole of the intestate estate unless the deceased leaves children who are not also children of the spouse. In such cases, the spouse will inherit the deceased’s personal effects, a statutory legacy of over $350,000 and half of the remainder of the estate. All children of the deceased will share equally in the other half of the remainder.

Where there are no spouse or issue who survive the deceased by 30 days, the law will look to find next of kin beneficiaries according to the State’s order of intestacy rules. The search for a surviving beneficiary will be amongst the deceased’s parents, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, grandparents, uncles and aunts, and cousins.

In Australia, no relatives more remote than first cousins may inherit under the laws of intestacy. If there is no relative found in these categories, the estate assets will pass to the crown.

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