When someone dies without a will it is called dying “intestate.” When this happens, the deceased’s assets are shared out under the “rules of intestacy”. These rules also apply if a will has been made but it is not legally valid.
The only people who can inherit if you die without a will are your married or civil partner, and certain other close relatives. Who inherits and how much they inherit depends on the value of your estate and your family situation when you die. Read on to find out who would inherit what in the following situations.
The person who dies is married
If the person who dies (intestate person) is married and jointly owns property or has a joint bank account with their spouse, their spouse will automatically inherit all of this property and money. This property and money does not count towards the value of the estate of the intestate person to be shared out according to the intestacy rules.
If the intestate person is married without children then the full value of their personal estate passes to their spouse.
If the intestate person is married with children, then their spouse receives the first £250k of their estate. The remaining estate is then split in two. The spouse also receives one half of this. The other half is split between the intestate person’s children. This includes children from previous relationships/other partners, and adopted children.
Note: Unmarried partners cannot inherit anything from the deceased under the rules of intestacy. If you are unmarried and wish for your partner to inherit if you die, you need to make a will for this to happen.
The person who dies is unmarried
If the intestate person is unmarried with children, then their estate will be divided equally between their children.
Grandchildren can inherit if their parent (the child of the intestate person) dies before their intestate grandparent.
If the intestate person is unmarried without children, then their entire estate is inherited by other close relatives, in the following order:
- Their parents
- If their parents are deceased, then their brothers & sisters
- If they have no siblings then their grandparents
- If they have no living grandparents then their aunts and uncles
If you die without a will and you have no spouse or living relatives to inherit, then your estate will go to the crown. This is called “bona vacantia”, and in this case the Treasury Solicitor’s department is responsible for the estate.
The rules on intestacy are very strict, and can limit inheritance to a very small number of people. If you die without a will, it could end up that people you would want to inherit your assets would have no right to them. Making a will removes these limitations and ensures that your estate will be divided as you wish after your death. At Freeman Harris we offer free legal advice, so get in touch today to discuss your requirements for your will.