Under English law, any competent adult can make a will leaving their estate to whoever they wish. However, when someone dies without a will they are described as dying intestate; and in these circumstances, the intestacy rules apply.
Intestacy rules mean that the deceased’s spouse or civil partner will inherit their possessions, the first £250,000 of their estate and half of everything else. Their children inherit the other half when they reach 18 years of age. There is then a hierarchy of beneficiaries if the deceased dies without a spouse or children.
Intestacy rules allow all children to inherit under a parent’s estate whether or not they are dependent upon that parent (with the exception of children adopted into another family). This means that anyone can come forward alleging a right to an intestate estate. This can be difficult to manage, especially if it’s not clear what assets the deceased had, or if there are complex family relationships to fathom. In these types of situations, the advice would be to use a solicitor or accountant that specialises in probate.
A probate specialist can make the process of sorting out intestacy easier and a bit quicker, even for less complicated estates.
Proof by DNA testing
In the USA, a man who says he’s the grandson of Charles Manson and wants to be the permanent administrator of the infamous criminal’s estate has been ordered by the Los Angeles Superior Court to take a DNA test to prove he is a biological relation. If he can show that he is indeed Manson’s grandson, he will inherit a share of the estate. Jason Freeman has since appealed the judge’s order to undergo DNA testing to prove his kinship.
The question of DNA testing to prove a biological relationship has also been considered in English law in the landmark case of Nield-Moir v Freeman (2018). The court granted an order for DNA testing of the deceased’s daughter who had been born during his marriage to her mother even though he was listed as her father on her birth certificate. The Court agreed to grant the order for DNA testing, accepting that ‘if science can help, then it should’.
Providing a DNA sample is a very simple process. A mouth swab just needs to be rubbed on the inside of a client’s cheek to collect buccal cells. For legally defensible results, this needs to be done by a trained sample collector to ensure chain of custody is maintained. AlphaBiolabs offers a range of DNA relationship tests that can be performed to prove direct biological relationships. These include paternity, maternity, grandparent, aunt, uncle and sibling DNA tests. Y chromosome testing is another option that can be used to prove that alleged male relatives share a common paternal line.
DNA testing after death
Collecting DNA from a client once they have passed away can be a more complicated procedure. It can still be possible to use the mouth swab DNA collection method, if the person has recently deceased. Alternatively, our DNA scientists can undertake a viability study to determine whether a DNA profile can be retrieved.
Viability studies can be undertaken to analyse the deceased’s nail clippings or used toothbrush. If a DNA profile can be retrieved, the relevant DNA relationship test can be performed.
Our legal DNA testing can be provided with next day results that are accepted in UK courts and can be used for probate purposes.
More information about DNA testing for wills and probate
For more details on sorting out an estate when there isn’t a will, you can visit https://www.gov.uk/inherits-someone-dies-without-will and https://www.moneyhelper.org.uk/en/family-and-care/death-and-bereavement/sorting-out-the-estate-when-there-isnt-a-will