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What happens if I die without Will?
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Home / Making a Will / Importance of Making a Will / What happens if I die without Will?

An introduction to the law of intestacy

Where a person dies without making a will they are said to have died “intestate”. The property and assets of a person who dies intestate are distributed to certain of their surviving relatives in accordance with the rules of intestacy.

In what order is the estate distributed?

As to how the property and assets of a person who dies intestate are distributed depends upon what relatives he or she leaves behind. You can view our Laws of Intestacy flowchart if you prefer a visual explanation.

Where a person is married or in a civil partnership and has no other surviving close relatives

Where a person dies intestate and leaves a spouse or civil partner who survives the deceased by at least 28 days and the deceased has no surviving children, parents, brothers or sisters or nieces or nephews (half brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews are not included) then the whole of the deceased’s estate goes to the surviving spouse or civil partner.

Where a person is married or in a civil partnership and has no children but leaves other surviving close relatives

If the deceased has no children at the time of his or her death but leaves a parent or a brother or sister or a niece or nephew (again half brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews are not included) then the spouse or civil partner will inherit the personal possessions of the deceased plus the first £450,000 of the deceased’s estate.

The spouse or civil partner will also receive half of the balance of the deceased’s assets over £450,000. The remaining half passes to the deceased’s parents, or if he or she has no surviving parents, to his or her brothers and sisters. If the deceased has no surviving parents to brothers and sisters the remaining half passes to any surviving nieces and nephews.

Where a person is married or in a civil partnership and leaves children

If the deceased leaves a child or children the surviving spouse or civil partner will inherit the deceased’s personal possessions plus the first £250,000 of the deceased’s estate.

The spouse or civil partner has a right to receive an income from half of the balance of the deceased’s estate over £250,000.

The remaining half of the balance passes to the deceased’s children when they reach the age of 18 or to the deceased’s grandchildren if his or her own children die before him or her.

When the spouse or civil partner of the deceased dies the first half of the balance also passes to the children.

Separated and divorced spouses

Where the deceased and his or her spouse or civil partner have been judicially separated the former spouse or civil partner does not inherit anything. Similarly, where a couple have been divorced or a civil partnership has been dissolved the surviving spouse or civil partner does not inherit anything.

Where a person is not married or in a civil partnership and leaves children

Where a person dies intestate and does not leave a spouse or civil partner (or where the spouse or civil dies within 28 days of the deceased) and the deceased has children then the whole of the deceased’s estate goes to his or her surviving children.

Where a person is not married or in a civil partnership and has no children

Where a person dies intestate and does not leave a spouse or civil partner (or where the spouse or civil dies within 28 days of the deceased) and the deceased does not have any children then the whole of the deceased’s estate goes to his or her surviving parents (step-parents and in-laws are excluded) in equal shares.

If the deceased has no surviving partner, children or parents then the whole of his or her estate will be inherited by the deceased’s brothers and sisters (half-brothers and sisters are excluded). If there are no brothers or sisters the deceased’s estate passes to any half-brothers and sisters. If there are no half-brothers and sisters the estate passes to the deceased’s grandparents. If there are no surviving grandparents it passes to the deceased’s uncles and aunts and if there are no surviving uncles and aunts it passes to any half-uncles and aunts.

Where a person dies leaving no surviving close relatives

Where a person dies leaving no surviving spouse or civil partner, no children, siblings or grandchildren and no aunts or uncles the deceased’s estate passes to the Crown or the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duke of Cornwall.

Do the rules of intestacy always apply where a person dies without making a will?

The Courts have the power to override the rules of intestacy where the distribution of a person’s estate in accordance with the rules would not adequately provide for family members in certain circumstances.

Who is excluded from benefiting under the rules of intestacy?

If a person is unlawfully killed by another person, that person will not normally be entitled to benefit under the rules of intestacy unless he or she was of unsound mind at the time of the killing.

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If you are a couple and wish to leave all your assets to each other then you could save money by making  Mirror Wills. You can also use Mirror Wills if you whish to leave your estate to the same beneficiaries. 
 
If you wish to leave different legacies, appoint different executors or you would like to specify individual funeral wishes then you will need to make two Single Wills.
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