Want to know who will inherit your estate if you die without making that all-important will? You’ve come to the right place. Here at Beyond, we’ve broken all the intestacy rules in the UK down into handy flowchart form. Just scroll down in you’re in England or Wales, or pick your location:

 

What does ‘intestate’ mean?

When someone dies ‘intestate’, it means that they died without leaving a valid will. It might be that they never made a will, or that the one they did make wasn’t properly written.

When someone dies without a will, what happens to their estate will depend on the intestacy rules for the country they lived in. Usually, it will go to their spouse or another close family member – but there are key differences depending on where you live, even across the UK.

 

The rules of intestacy in England & Wales

The rules on what happens if you die intestate in England and Wales are pretty simple. You can use our intestacy rules flowchart here for quick reference, or click here to skip ahead to a full explanation.

Intestacy rules flowchart UK England and Wales

Who inherits if you die intestate, without a will?

Let’s look at those intestacy rules in detail! If you live in England or Wales, the order of succession is as follows:

 

1) Your spouse or civil partner

Surviving spouses and civil partners have priority in most countries’ intestacy rules. England and Wales are no different, but the amount your husband, wife or civil partner can inherit will depend on the size of your estate and whether you have kids.

If you’re married or in a civil partnership when you die, and the estate is worth less than £250,000, your spouse or civil partner will inherit everything.

If the estate is worth more than £250,000, and you don’t have children, your spouse or civil partner will again inherit everything.

But if the estate is worth more than £250,000, and you have children, your spouse or civil partner will inherit:

  • All your personal belongings and property
  • The first £250,000 of your estate
  • Half of what’s left over

The other half of what’s left over will be split equally between your children. And if one of your children dies before you do, their share of your estate can pass to their children (your grandchildren) instead. There are a few other things to bear in mind:

  • If you have a partner, but you’re not married or in a civil partnership, they can’t inherit under the laws of intestacy in the UK
  • And if you’re separated, but not divorced, your spouse or civil partner can still inherit
  • If you’ve gone through a divorce, or if you’ve formally ended a civil partnership, your ex-spouse or ex-partner can’t inherit under UK intestacy rules

Dying intestate can have serious consequences! Want to make sure the right people inherit your estate when you die? You can make a will online in just 10 minutes using Beyond’s smart interactive service. Click here to find out more.

 

2) Your children, or other direct descendants

If you don’t have a spouse or civil partner when you die (e.g. if you’re single, divorced, widowed, or in a relationship but not married), then your children are in line to inherit. The estate will be split equally between them.

As above, if one of your children dies before you, but they have children or grandchildren of their own, these direct descendants will inherit their parent’s share. Don’t forget:

  • Adopted children have the same rights as biological children when it comes to the laws of intestacy in the UK
  • Children from a previous marriage have the same rights as those from your current one
  • Step-children can’t inherit through UK intestacy rules unless they’ve been adopted

 

3) Your parents

If you aren’t married or in a civil partnership, and you don’t have children or any other direct descendants, your parents will inherit 50% of your estate each.

 

4) Your brothers and sisters

As you can see in our ‘Dying Intestate’ flowchart, next in line after your parents are your siblings, if you have any. And if one of your brothers or sisters has passed away before you, their children (your nieces or nephews) can inherit their share instead.

 

5) Your half-brothers and sisters

A half-brother or half-sister is someone who shares one biological parent with you. You might both have the same dad, but different mums, for example. Under English and Welsh intestacy rules, their claim comes after that of siblings who share both parents.

As above, if one of your half-brothers or half-sisters dies before you do, their children will get their share.

 

6) Your grandparents

If your grandparents are still around, they can inherit through the rules of intestacy if none of the relatives above are able to do so. Your dad’s parents and your mum’s parents have equal claims as well, so if you have four living grandparents, the estate will be split fairly four ways.

 

7) Your aunts and uncles

Failing that, the estate will be split equally between your aunts and uncles. If one of them dies before you, their children (your cousins) will inherit their share of your estate.

 

8) Your half-aunts and half-uncles

A half-uncle is someone who shares one biological parent with one of your parents – they’re your mum or dad’s half-brother. If your half-uncle or half-aunt dies before you do, their children can inherit their share instead.

 

10) The Crown

So, what happens when someone dies intestate and none of the relatives above are to be found? In cases like this, the whole estate will go to the Crown.

 

Worried about dying intestate in the UK?

It’s understandable. The order of intestate succession above can leave the loved ones who really matter to us out in the cold, or reward someone you’d never have chosen yourself.

Been with a partner all your life, but never married? Adore your partner’s children, but never formally adopted them? Separated from a spouse, but not yet divorced them? Want to make sure your partner, your kids AND your parents all get financial help if you die?

If any of that sounds like you, it’s a really good idea to make a will to protect your family and make your wishes clear. Here at Beyond, you can make a simple will in just 10 minutes using our smart, interactive online will service. Just click here to begin.

 

What to do when someone dies intestate

If someone close to you has died without a will, administering the estate can be a tricky job. A good place to start is our guide to administering an estate here – or, if you’d like, you can find out more about our fixed-fee estate administration service here.


Do you have any questions about what happens when you die intestate, or about settling an estate without a will? Send us a message using the form below! Our will writing and probate experts are always happy to help.

 

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