Dealing with the death of a loved one is challenging. With so many emotions involved in the grieving process, it’s hard to wrap your head around all the complicated and time-consuming admin surrounding your parents assets and belongings.
One question that often comes up following the death of a parent is around how the property gets divided among the next of kin. All too often, children don’t have the full understanding of what they’re entitled to — and the last thing any grieving family needs is to fall out over ownership of assets.
In this guide, we’ll lift the lid on inheritance rights of siblings following a parents’ death in the UK.
UK sibling inheritance laws, explained
In most cases, the deceased will dictate how they want their property and assets to be shared in a Will. But for many reasons, a person can die without leaving a valid Will. In this case, the property is shared out according to specific rules and guidelines referred to as the ‘Rules of Intestacy.’
The Rules of Intestacy prioritises friends and family of the deceased in the following order:
- Spouse or civil partner
- Children or grandchildren
When it comes to inheriting a property along with your siblings, the guidelines are a little bit more complex.
If your parent has died, and there was no valid Will at their time of death, the estate will be administered under the Rules of Intestacy. All relatives, including siblings, will be placed into a list of priority. It’s important to note that the courts don’t take into consideration age, relationships, or estrangement. No distinction will be made for siblings that were closer to their parents, for example.
In the absence of a claim being brought under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975, the estate will be dealt with under the Intestacy Rules, and all children of the deceased will receive an equal portion of the property.
If your parent has died, and you’ve been named in the Will as a joint beneficiary of your parents’ property alongside your siblings, you’ll need to collectively decide how to move forward. In some cases, disagreements can arise — which can lead to a lengthy process of complicated and expensive legal proceedings. Trying to come to a mutual agreement with your siblings first will save time, money and stress down the line.
Siblings who jointly inherit a property have three main options to consider:
- Keep the property. Depending on each individual situation, it might be more favourable to keep the property and either live in it, rent it out to tenants, or use the property on a timeshare basis.
- Sell the property. Though it means losing a home and its sentimental value, selling is often thought of as the most straightforward option — as siblings can then split the profit equally. This is also the best option if there’s an outstanding mortgage on the property, and none of the siblings can afford to share a mortgage or take out a second one.
- Buy each other out. If one sibling wants to live in the property, they can either buy the others out or allow the other siblings to recoup a share of the profit once the property is sold. Alternatively, one sibling can buy the others out and either rent the property out or keep it as a second home.
More often than not, deciding how to proceed with an inherited property can be incredibly complicated. Sometimes there’s a sibling who is already living in the property, and refuses to move out. Sometimes one sibling wants to sell, and the other doesn’t. In the scenario that siblings absolutely cannot reach a mutual agreement, the sibling who wants to sell the property can ask the executors of the Will to force a sale in court under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996.
Family life doesn’t always look the same, and questions often arise when adopted children or step siblings are involved.
As is the case with biological children, adopted children have access to the exact same right under the Rules of Intestacy. As long as you’re legally or biologically a child of the deceased, you have a legal stake in the property.
Step children and foster children are not recognised under the Rules of Intestacy — which can lead to complications when divvying up an estate. If step or foster children have been left out of the Will, they have no legal claim to the property. If you’re a biological child with a step sibling, you technically have a legal right to the property over them. This might not stop them from taking legal action to secure their stake in the assets.
Depending on the situation, some biological siblings still recognise their step/siblings as part of the family, and may take it upon themselves to include them when deciding how to proceed with their inherited property.
If some (or all) of the children inheriting their parents property are under 18, the same rules and options apply — but the beneficiaries will get access to the funds from the sold property when they turn 18. Younger siblings might be happy letting their older siblings take the lead on what to do with the property, but that doesn’t change the fact that they have an equal stake in whatever money is made from the result.
Understanding the inheritance rights of siblings following a parents death is always complicated. Even if the Will dictates an equal split, it’s never as straightforward as selling the house as fast as possible. There’s a lot to consider before making any permanent decisions, like whether or not you have to pay capital gains tax on your inheritance — and any outstanding debts that also might need paying off.
Whatever your situation, you’ll want to make sure you’re working with a great solicitor who understands the complications (and emotions) involved in dividing property, so you can get the best possible outcome without severing ties with your siblings.
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