The death of 33-year old Stephen Gately, a member of the Irish boy band Boyzone, back in October 2009 teaches a lesson in the difference between U.S. and British intestacy laws when it was revealed last week that Gately died without leaving a will. According to irishtimes.com, Gately left a British estate valued at a little over $4.8 million USD, and, after subtracting out liabilities, Gately's intestate heirs under British law will split nearly $2.2 million USD.
Gately met his partner, Andrew Cowles, through Sir Elton John and the couple became civil partners under British law in 2006. According to British intestacy laws, the first $660,000 USD of a deceased person's estate goes to the surviving civil partner and if the deceased person has no descendants, then the civil partner will receive 50% of the balance and the deceased person's parents will receive the remaining 50%. In addition, assets passing to a civil partner are not subject to British estate taxes, but assets passing to parents or other intestate heirs are. So in Gately's case Cowles will receive about $1.5 million USD free from British estate taxes and Gately's parents will receive the balance of $700,000 USD which will be net of British estate taxes.
It is not known at this time if Gately left any assets located outside of the U.K., but if he did leave any assets located in the U.S. then under the majority of U.S. intestacy laws Cowles would be completely disinherited and Cowles' parents would receive 100% net of any U.S. federal and state estate taxes that may be due.