When a person dies without leaving a will, it is known as dying ‘intestate’. If someone dies without making a will, the Rules of Intestacy will determine how the estate will be administered. This will also apply where someone made a will in their lifetime, but it is not valid.
So, if you do not make a valid will, who will inherit your estate?
- Surviving spouse or civil partner
- Aunts and uncles
- The Crown
| Surviving spouse or civil partner
If you have a surviving spouse or civil partner, they will inherit some or all of your estate under the Rules of Intestacy. How much of the estate your spouse receives will depend on the value of the estate.
If the estate is worth £270,000 or less, then everything will go to the surviving spouse. Similarly, if the estate is worth over £270,000 and there are no surviving children (or other descendants), then everything will go to the spouse or civil partner.
However, if your estate is worth more than £270,000 and there are surviving children, then the spouse or civil partner will receive personal chattels (belongings), £270,000 and an absolute interest in one half of the residue. Your children will receive whatever is left, on trust.
It is important to note that if you are not married, your partner will not be entitled to anything under the Rules of Intestacy.
So, what happens if you are not married or in a civil partnership when you die, or you don’t have a surviving spouse?
If you have children who survive you, they will inherit the estate. The estate will be distributed equally between your children. If any of your children have already died but have left children, then their share will pass down to them.
If you don’t have any surviving children (or grandchildren), we would next look to see if there are any parents who have survived. If you have a surviving parent, then they would inherit the estate. If both parents survive you, the estate would be shared equally between them.
If there are no children and no parents who survived, we would look to see if you have any whole blood brothers or sisters who survive you. If there are, then everything would be distributed between them equally.
If you don’t have surviving siblings, but do have surviving half siblings, they will inherit.
If any of your siblings have already died but have left children, their share will pass to them (your nieces / nephews).
If you are not survived by any of the above relatives, then we would look to see if there is any grandparent who has survived. If so, then they would share everything equally.
| Aunts and uncles
If not, then we would go onto seeing if there are any aunts or uncles who have survived. If so, then everything is shared between them equally.
If you are not survived by any ‘whole blood’ aunts or uncles, we would look to see if you have any surviving half aunts and uncles. If so, your estate will be distributed equally between them.
If any of your aunts and uncles have already died but have left children, their share will pass to them (your cousins).
| The Crown
If you are not survived by any of the above relations, your entire estate will go to the Crown.
| How do I ensure that everyone I want to inherit does benefit?
As you can see, if there is no will in place then the way the rules of intestacy work will mean that some people will not inherit anything from your estate. For example, if you have a partner but are not married, they will not inherit anything if you die intestate. This is the same for stepchildren.
To find out what would happen if you died without a will, try our quick quiz.
The best way to ensure that your loved ones inherit after your death is to make a will. If you would like to speak to a member of our wills team, please make an appointment online, or call us on 0800 988 7756