In February 2020, the heartbreaking news broke that Caroline Flack, the popular TV and radio presenter, best known for presenting Love Island, sadly took her life at the age of 40.
It has recently been reported by various sources that Flack had died without a Will. In the circumstances that someone passes away without a Will, the estate is said to be intestate, meaning the estate must be dealt with according to the rules of intestacy. As Flack was not married at the time of her death and she did not have any children, her surviving parents are next in line to inherit her estate, as outlined by England & Wales intestacy rules. It has been reported that her mother, Christine, has been legally appointed as the Administrator of the estate.
Flack’s estate had been estimated to be worth around £2 million before debts and Inheritance Tax liability, resulting in a net value of just over £827,000. Flack was well known for her charitable work, and reports suggest that the money will benefit charities that were close to her heart.
Flack’s mother, Christine, has said:
“We will use the money wisely to help good causes that Caroline was passionate about”.
Although Flack’s money is being distributed to charitable causes, is this exactly how she would have wanted her estate to be administered? Perhaps one charity was closer to her heart than another and she would have preferred them to receive a larger sum? Perhaps she would have wanted her three siblings to inherit? The best way to guarantee that your wishes are fulfilled is by ensuring a well-written and valid Will is in place.
The importance of leaving a well-written Will
Creating a Will and keeping it up to date is important to ensure the deceased’s estate is passed down to loved ones with little disruption. A Will can make the estate administration process clearer and more straightforward, avoiding unnecessary stress for loved ones at an already difficult time. If a valid and up to date Will has been left, there is a clear outline of how the estate will be distributed, identifying beneficiaries and exactly what they will be inheriting from the estate. A Will also names the individual(s) who are legally responsible for administering the estate, known as the Executor(s).
In the circumstances of intestacy, there is an assumption that the deceased’s closest loved ones will automatically be entitled and inherit even if they die without a Will, however, this is not always the case. When faced with intestacy, the process of estate administration is undoubtedly more complex and the next of kin can apply to be the Administrator, such as Flack’s mother, Christine. The Administrator, similarly to the Executor, takes the legal and financial responsibility to distribute the estate accurately and will be held accountable for any mistakes. To legally become an Administrator, this needs to be granted from applying for the Grant of Letters of Administration.
Genealogical research is often required upon an intestate estate, to ensure the correct people inherit under the rules of intestacy. Even if the family believes they have accurate knowledge of the family tree, it should be professionally verified. If it is not clear who should inherit, then a reconstruction of the family tree may be required. This can be a long process which can delay the estate administration process considerably. Once the family tree has been verified, there may be further delays searching for the entitled beneficiaries and tracking down all of the deceased’s assets.
We cannot stress enough how important it is to ensure you have a valid and well-written Will in place. Despite the many reasons why people tend to procrastinate this task, we encourage you to make sure this is at the top of your to-do list in the new year.