The first episode of ITV’s Finding Alice raises an important discussion around intestacy, highlighting the need for unmarried couples to prepare Wills.

During lockdown, most of us have found ourselves indulging in some light-hearted television. ITV have recently aired a new drama called Finding Alice, which highlights a number of elements of law which our Private Client team can provide specialist advice about.

The first episode of Finding Alice begins with a scene where Harry, a property developer, shows off the lavish house he has recently built for himself and his partner of 20 years, Alice. Tragically, Alice’s life is thrown into disarray when Harry falls down the stairs and dies.

Intestacy in Finding Alice

We find out that Alice and Harry were not married and Harry did not have a Will. It also transpires that Alice was not a co-owner of the new house that Harry had built. Without a Will, Harry’s estate, including the house, is subject to the laws of intestacy, which make no provision for Alice as they were not married.

Alice and Harry have a daughter, Charlotte, who is 16 and on the face of it, it seems as though Harry’s entire estate will pass in trust to Charlotte.

The importance of making Wills

It is essential that if you and your partner are not married, you make provision for each other by making Wills. Your Wills can direct who the assets in your estate will pass to in the event of your death. If Harry had made a Will, he would no doubt have made provision for Alice as his long-term partner, meaning she wouldn’t have to worry about not being a beneficiary of his estate. Even if Harry and Alice been married, they should still have made Wills.

Under the rules of intestacy, if Alice were his wife, she would only be entitled to his personal belongings, a statutory legacy of £270,000 and then half of the rest of his estate. This could mean that Alice’s entitlement equates to less than the value of their house, which may not have been Harry’s intention having built the house as their forever home.

In the next episode, we find out that before his death Harry actually gifted his property to his parents, who then threaten to leave Alice and Charlotte homeless, explaining that they will need to sell the house to pay the inheritance tax liability.

My next article will focus on lifetime gifting and succession planning, which could have saved Harry’s parents from the need to pay a substantial sum of inheritance tax.