Agatha Christie shouldn’t be trusted on Intestacy

Seven people sit down to dinner only six leave. Until a series of anonymous letters were received by her Husband, George, it was thought that Rosemary had committed suicide by drinking champagne laced with cyanide.

A year later George invites the same five guests to dinner at the same restaurant, and like Rosemary dies, poisoned by cyanide in his champagne. George had shared the contents of the anonymous letters with his friend Colonel Race.

Agatha Christie is known for her murder mystery stories however Sparkling Cyanide cannot be relied upon as an example of the operation of the laws of intestacy.

George was not the intended victim of the poisoning. Rosemary had inherited a fortune from her Uncle, however under the terms of his Will if Rosemary died childless her fortune would pass to her younger sister Iris. If Iris dies unmarried the money would pass to her Aunt Lucilla.

Colonel Race has discovered that Ruth, George’s secretary, was in a relationship with Lucilla’s son Victor (a scheming narcissist). Ruth and Victor plotted to murder the sisters in order that Aunt Lucilla, who is easily manipulated by her son Victor,  gets the inheritance as Iris’ next of Kin. Due to a mix up at the dinner George drank the champagne meant for Iris.

When this plot fails, Ruth attempts to run Iris over with a car and when that fails, tries to knock her unconscious in her bedroom, and leave the gas running. Both plots are foiled by Colonel Race.

Rosemary made a will leaving everything to Iris, however Iris had made no will. The novel states that the need for Victor to act quickly was due to the fact that Probate had not been granted on Rosemary’s Will. However probate had been granted on the Uncle’s Will as Rosemary had left the Uncles estate to her sister.

If Ruth and Victors’ plot had succeeded the operation of Rosemary’s Will would mean that Iris’ intestate estate under English Intestacy Law would be gifted as follows, firstly:


Spouse or civil partner, (if there are none) then;
Children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, (if there are none) then;
Parents(if there are none) then;
Brothers or Sisters-including half-brothers or half-sisters(if there are none) then;
Grandparents(if there are none) then;
Aunts or uncles -including half aunts or half uncles(if there are none) then;
the government.

Therefore if the plot to murder Iris had succeeded Aunt Lucilla would inherit the intestate estate because she was the sole blood relative, not due to the operation of the Uncles Will or because she was the next of Kin.

Agatha Christie is not an intestacy expert but it is important that you have an up to date Will.

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