The Law of Intestacy

What if I fail to leave a valid will?

  • If you do not leave a valid will your estate will pass in accordance with the intestacy rules.
  • If you have no relatives the Crown is entitled to take everything.
  • Your spouse will not necessarily inherit the whole of your estate.
  • A non-married partner may receive nothing.

Rules of Intestacy

If you do not leave a valid will your estate will pass in accordance with the intestacy rules.

The intestacy rules set out who is entitled to inherit from your estate if you do not leave a valid will. If you do not leave a Will your money and possessions will be distributed according to the intestacy rules laid down in the Administration of estates Act 1925. If you have no relatives the Crown is entitled to take everything.

If you are married, or in a civil partnership, the first person entitled to your estate under the intestate rules is your spouse / civil partner, but he or she will not necessarily inherit the whole of your estate (the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into effect on 5th December 2005 and gave same-sex couples the right to register their partnerships, giving them broadly the same legal rights as married couples).

The amount your spouse / civil partner would inherit depends on how much is in your estate and which of your blood relatives survive you. Assets held in joint names usually pass automatically to the other joint owner(s) and do not form part of your estate (if you are unsure about the type of joint ownership you share with another, you should consider seeking legal advice).

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The intestacy rules in a simplified form

If any of the following circumstances apply to you, the intestacy rules may not cater for your situation in the way that you would wish:

In a Nutshell.

If you die without a Will and have a surviving spouse or civil partner:

Statutory Trust.

Under a statutory trust, part of the estate (once the spouse or civil partner has taken his or her fixed share) is held for children or other beneficiaries until the death of the spouse or civil partner. The spouse or civil partner receives the income for the trust for life. (England and Wales Only)

No surviving spouse or civil partner

Your children will share everything. If any of your children have not survived, their own children (i.e. your grandchildren) will inherit their share.

No surviving children or other direct descendants (including great grandchildren)

Your estate will be inherited by your other relatives in the following order: