Intestacy - who inherits if someone dies without a will?

When someone dies without a leaving valid will, this is known as dying intestate. When this happens, the rules of intestacy will apply. The intestacy rules will dictate how a deceased person’s estate is distributed, which won’t necessarily be according to their wishes. For this reason, you shouldn’t consider it an alternative to making a will.

What is a statutory legacy?

A statutory legacy is the amount that surviving spouses or civil partners are allowed to inherit if their partner dies without leaving a valid will. This amount was increased as of 6 February 2020. This was the first change in intestacy rules since 2014. 

The statutory legacy for partners under the intestacy rules has increased to £270,000. This was previously £250,000. This legacy is free of inheritance tax, due to spousal exemption. Partners will also receive all personal chattels (any items other than freehold land) absolutely, and the remainder of the estate will be divided as to one half for the spouse and the other half for the children.

What happens upon intestacy?

When an individual dies without leaving a valid will, trusts and estates are distributed by the rules of intestacy. These are as follows:

1.    If there is a surviving spouse or civil partner as well as children:

The spouse or civil partner receives the personal chattels, the first £270,000 and half of what is left.

The children of the deceased, including illegitimate and adopted children, share between them half of what is left straight away (if they are 18 years old or over) and will receive the other half when the surviving parent dies.

2.    If there is a surviving spouse or civil partner, but no children:

The spouse or civil partner inherits the entire estate, free of inheritance tax due to the spousal exemption. 

3.    If there are surviving children, but no surviving spouse or civil partner:

The children share everything equally.

4.    If there is no surviving spouse, civil partner or children, the estate will be distributed in the following order:

  • Parents
  • Brothers and/or sisters (whole blood)
  • Brothers and/or sisters (half blood)
  • Grandparents
  • Uncles and/or aunts (whole blood)
  • Uncles and/or aunts (half blood)
  • The Crown, Duchy of Lancaster or the Duke of Cornwall.

For further information, see the government’s website.

Ensuring you have a valid will is important, especially if the people or person you would like to inherit from your estate are not included under the intestacy rules. If you have a partner, but you are not married or in a civil partnership, you would not inherit anything under the rules of intestacy. 

If you would like to make a will or review your current will to ensure your loved ones inherit what you wish, we have a team of specialist wills, trusts and probate lawyers that can help guide you through this process and advise on your situation.

For a free, no obligation 15 minute conversation, please complete our online enquiry form here or contact your most convenient office on:

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The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.