What happens if you don’t have a will?
If you die intestate, meaning without leaving a will, Government will distribute your possessions, property and money according to the law of intestacy. Under the Intestates Act, your possessions will be divided into two categories, namely, personal chattels and residuary estate.
Personal chattels include motor cars and accessories (not used for business purposes), garden effects, domestic animals, linen, china, glass, books, pictures, prints, furniture, jewellery, articles of household or personal use or ornament, musical and scientific instruments and apparatus, wines, liquors and consumable stores, but does not include any possessions used for business purposes or money or securities for money.
Your residuary estate is everything that is not personal chattel which remains after the payment of your funeral and administration expenses, debts and other liabilities that are properly payable. The bulk of your estate would fall into your residuary estate and will include your land, businesses and money.
How are your personal chattels disposed of under the Intestates Act?
- If you die leaving a surviving spouse all your personal chattels will go to your surviving spouse.
- If you die without a surviving spouse, all your personal chattels will go to your surviving children in equal shares.
- If you die without any surviving children, then your personal chattel will go to surviving members of your family in a designated order of priority that first starts with your parents and goes down to your half uncles and half aunts.
- If you die leaving no surviving family members, your property will go to the Crown or Government as bona vacantia or property without an apparent owner or claimant.
How is your residuary estate disposed of under the Intestates Act?
- (i) If you die leaving a surviving spouse, your surviving spouse will be entitled to your personal chattel and to US$240 or 10% of the net value of the residuary estate, whichever is greater. Your spouse will also get 5% interest per annum on his/her portion of the estate until the sum is paid;
- (ii) the remainder of your residuary estate will be held as follows:
- a. if you die without leaving children, for the benefit of your surviving spouse but only for the length of his or her lifetime;
- b. if you die leaving a surviving spouse and children:
- i. Half for the benefit of the surviving spouse for his or her life;
- ii. Half for the benefit of your surviving children in equal shares; and
- iii. On the death of your surviving spouse the half held by your surviving spouse for life goes to your surviving children in equal shares
- c. If you die leaving children but no surviving spouse, the residuary estate will go to your children in equal shares;
- d. If you die leaving no spouse and no children, your estate will go to your nearest kin in a prescribed order of priority commencing with your surviving parents and ending with your half uncles and aunts;
- e. If you die leaving absolutely no heirs, then your estate will go to the Crown or Government as bona vocantia or property without an apparent owner or claimant.
Words to Note
Words used in everyday language often have different meanings in a legal context. The following explanations are intended as a guide rather than as strict legal definitions of the words used in this document:
- A spouse is a person who was legally married to the deceased when he or she died.
- The term ‘children’ includes children born in wedlock; it also includes adult sons and daughters. It does not, however, include children born out of wedlock, adopted children or step-children.
- Brothers and sisters of the whole blood have the same mother and father.
- Brothers and sisters of the half blood, commonly referred to as “half-brothers” or “half-sisters,” have just one parent in common.
- Uncles and aunts of the whole blood are brothers and sisters of the whole blood of the deceased’s father or mother.
- Uncles and aunts of the half blood are brothers and sisters of the half blood of the deceased’s father or mother.
An ex-wife or ex-husband (who was legally divorced from the deceased before the date of death), gets nothing from the estate under the rules of intestacy.
Anyone who is under 18 (except a spouse of the deceased) does not get his or her share of the estate until he or she becomes 18, or marries under that age. It must be held on trust for him or her until he or she becomes 18 or gets married.
Apart from the spouse of the deceased, only blood relatives are entitled to share in the estate. Anyone else who is related only through marriage or adoption and not by blood (for example, a step-brother or step-sister) is not entitled to share in the estate.