I’ve heard if you don’t leave a will your estate can go to the Government. Is that true?

Section 136 of the Succession Act says:

“If an intestate dies leaving no person who is entitled to the intestate estate, the State is entitled to the whole of the intestate estate”.

Chapter 4 of the Succession Act makes provisions for what happens in an intestacy. Intestacy is where there is no will, or where if there is a will there is estate property which has not been disposed of in the will (Section 102).

In the case of an intestacy the Act looks to certain classes of persons in a particular order as potential beneficiaries. Perhaps not surprisingly the order currently runs as: spouse, children, parents, brothers & sisters, grandparents and then uncles & aunts.

So if the deceased has none of the above and dies intestate there is a risk the State (as in the New South Wales government) will take the estate. The State has a discretion to waives it’s rights under Section 136 and make provision for others (e.g. a charity to which the deceased had made regular provision).

So while you might think it’s unlikely the scenario contemplated by this provision will eventuate, sadly such circumstances do come about. The lesson? Always draft a will!