Key points to remember
Making a will takes such a small amount of time, yet there is still a high proportion of people who die without leaving a valid will, known as dying "intestate". Among them are high profile and very wealthy people such as Prince and bestselling author Stieg Larsson. Dying intestate means that an individual's estate will be dealt with in accordance with Jersey law and distributed according to set rules depending on people's relation to the individual, which could be quite different to how they would have wanted it to pass. This can lead to issues, as the intestacy rules often do not take into account the intricacies of a modern family.
In Jersey, assets are divided into:
- immovable assets (freehold land and buildings, flying freehold and leased over nine years); and
- movable assets (money, chattels, shares, share transfer properties).
Different rules apply to the succession of each type of asset on intestacy and these are set out in the Wills and Succession (Jersey) Law 1993.
If a deceased person leaves no children or further descendants but a surviving spouse or civil partner, that spouse or civil partner will be inherit the whole of the immovable estate (which includes things like the deceased person's home if they purchased it by freehold or flying freehold).
Where a person is survived by children (or further descendants) and a surviving spouse or civil partner, each party will receive an equal share of the immovable estate and the spouse or civil partner may also be entitled to have life enjoyment of the matrimonial home (unless the couple were not residing together at the time of death and either the survivor had deserted the deceased party without cause or they were judicially separated).
Where only children survive, they share in the immovable estate equally.
If there is no surviving spouse, civil partner or surviving children, then the immovable estate passes to the closest relatives – but note that Jersey law gives priority to surviving siblings (or, failing them, their children) as opposed to surviving parents.
Where a person leaves a surviving spouse or civil partner, and no children or further descendants, the spouse is entitled to all of the movable assets (which covers a range of assets, including the deceased person's home if they purchased it by share transfer).
If there are both children and a spouse or civil partner surviving, the spouse is entitled to the household effects, the first £30,000 of movable assets, and then one half of the rest of the movable assets. The other half is split equally between the surviving children.
Where only children survive, again, they share equally.
As with immovable assets, if there is no spouse/civil partner or children, the movable assets pass to the deceased person's closest relatives. Siblings (or, failing them, their children) have priority over the deceased person's surviving parents.
The intestacy rules do not account for modern family dynamics, including second marriages, stepchildren, co-habitees, estranged family members and same-sex partners if the deceased person was not married to or in a civil partnership with their partner. The rules are largely based on the society norms of old. For example:
- Jersey law gives no rights to a "common law" spouse or civil partner.
- The term "children" includes adopted children but not stepchildren.
- Priority is given to surviving siblings over surviving parents.
- A family member who the deceased individual would not have wanted to act as the administrator of their estate may have the right to do so.
As well as detailing who the individual wants their estate to be left to upon their death, a will can also:
- name the person that the individual wants to act as their executor;
- name a guardian to care for any minor children or pets;
- outline an individual's funeral wishes; and
- make note of gifts of specific items or sums of money that the individual wants to give to particular people or charities.
Even if an individual's estate is only small, a will can provide certainty for their family at an emotional and difficult time and reduce any potential fallouts, as it will detail exactly how the individual wishes their estate to be dealt with.
For further information on this topic please contact Victoria Grogan at Ogier by telephone (+44 1534 514 000) or email ([email protected]). The Ogier website can be accessed at www.ogier.com.