Intestacy refers to the body of common law that determines who is entitled to the property of a dead person in the absence of a last will and testament or other binding declaration.
The concept of intestacy has a limited application in those jurisdictions that follow civil law or Roman law; in these places, the doctrine of legitime gives a deceased person's relatives title to all or a large part of the estate's propery by operation of law. This share could only be decreased on account of some very specific misconduct by the heir.
After the Statute of Wills, 32 Henry VIII c. 1, Englishmen (and unmarried or widowed women) could dispose of their lands and property by a will. Their personal property could formerly be disposed of by a "testament," hence the hallowed legal merism "Last Will and Testament."
Common law sharply distinguised between real property and chattels. Real property for which no disposition had been made by will passed by the law of kinship and descent; chattel property for which no disposition had been made by testament was escheat to the Crown, or given to the Church for charitable purposes. This law became obsolete as England moved from being a feudal to a mercantile society, and chattels more valuable than land were being accumulated by townspeople.
In most contemporary common-law jurisdictions, the law of intestacy is patterned after the common law of descent. Property goes first to a spouse, then to children and their descendants; if there are no descendants, the rule sends you back up the tree to the parents, the siblings, the parents' siblings, and the siblings' descendants. The operation of these laws varies from one jurisdiction to another.
It is important to be aware that the spouse of a deceased person who died Intestate, DOES NOT automatically inherit the whole of the estate, if the total value of the free estate passing on the death, is of substantial value.
If no parent survives but the Intestate left a living brother or sister of the whole blood (or other issue) they share the assets with the spouse, provided that they satisfy the requirements of the statutory trusts.
If the Intestate died resident within the Duchy of Lancashire or in Cornwall, the Duchy or the Duke of Cornwall respectively take the assets as bona vacantia subject to the same conditions.
Intestate proceedings are settlements of estates by courts in which a person has died without having made a will.
And in the case of a man dying intestate, without being married and having children, the court normally would distribute the estate to the deceased’s brothers and sisters.
And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the share of the estate of the intestate, in this act directed to be allotted to the widow, shall be in lieu and satisfaction of her dower at common law.
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