How Is Property Handled When Somebody Dies Intestate?
Life can be completely unpredictable, and it is not unusual, unfortunately, for an otherwise healthy individual to die suddenly and without any identified condition. If that individual were in the prime of their life, then they may not have thought about the repercussions to any extent and had not prepared their last will and testament. In this case, complications can arise as they are effectively classified as intestate. How does this affect any property that they may have an interest in, however?
In this case, much will depend on how the property was owned and, crucially, whether it was jointly owned with another party. This will determine whether the property in question is actually included in their estate or not and how complex it may be to clear the matter up.
If the deceased was the sole owner of the property and the title was only in his or her name, then it will definitely be included as part of the estate. Nobody else can have any claim to the property and, in due course, the state will need to appoint an executor to handle any distribution.
If the deceased had owned the property jointly, then the situation is very different. If, for example, their partner was named within the documentation and had an interest in the property, then they are deemed to be the 'survivor' and will be the beneficiary. In other words, the interest of the person who died will automatically pass to this person, and this will have a significant bearing on the estate. Those who may benefit from the distribution of the estate in due course will not have a claim to this particular property.
Tenants in Common
The situation does get a bit more complicated if several parties were named as equal or unequal owners. In this case, the interest of the deceased party does not automatically pass to the others, but it will flow into the estate. Accordingly, it will need to be distributed by the executor as and when that person is appointed.
Appointing an Executor
Note that when somebody dies intestate, the government will appoint the executor. This will typically be the person who was closest to the deceased party or likely to have the greatest interest in the estate.
This situation can get very complicated, so all individuals involved should seek counsel from a wills and estates lawyer.