When a person dies without leaving a valid will, their property (the estate) must be shared out according to certain rules. These are called the rules of intestacy and are as follows:
Married partners and civil partners
This is the usual definition of married partners or civil partners. Cohabiting partners who were neither married nor in a civil partnership can’t inherit under the rules of intestacy.
Division of Estate
If there are surviving children, grandchildren or great grandchildren of the person who died and the estate is valued at more than £270,000, the partner will inherit:
- all the personal property and belongings of the person who has died, and
- the first £270,000 of the estate, and
- half of the remaining estate.
Any assets held as joint tenants, such as houses or bank accounts will pass to the surviving joint owner. There are types of ownership whereby the property will pass via the deceased person’s estate and not automatically. For information on changing the way you own a property please contact one of our Solicitors.
Property and money that the surviving partner inherits does not count as part of the estate of the person who has died when it is being valued for the intestacy rules.
Children will inherit if there is no surviving married or civil partner. If there is a surviving partner, they will inherit only if the estate is worth more than a certain amount as follows:
Children – if there is no surviving married or civil partner
If there is no surviving partner, irrespective of how much the estate is worth, the children of a person who has died inherit the whole estate under the Intestacy Rules. If there are two or more children, the estate will be divided equally between them.
Children – if there is a surviving partner
If there is a surviving partner, a child only inherits from the estate if the estate is valued at over £270,000. If there are two or more children, the children will inherit in equal shares a one half of the value of the estate above £270,000.
Adopted children (including step-children who have been adopted by their step-parent) have rights to inherit under the rules of intestacy.
Grandchildren and great grandchildren
A grandchild or great grandchild cannot inherit from the estate unless either their parent or grandparent has died before the intestate person, or their parent is alive when the intestate person dies but dies before reaching the age of 18 without having married or formed a civil partnership
Other close relatives
Parents, brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews of the intestate person may inherit under the rules of intestacy provided that there are no surviving spouse or civil partner, no children, grandchildren or great grandchildren. The parent of the nephews or nieces must also have died before they can inherit.
If none of the above survive, then other relatives have an order of priority amongst other relatives as follows:-
- uncles and aunts. A cousin can inherit instead if the uncle or aunt who would have inherited died before the intestate person
- half-uncles and half-aunts. A half-cousin can inherit instead if the half-uncle or half-aunt who would have inherited died before the intestate person.
Who cannot inherit
The following people have no right to inherit where someone dies without leaving a will:
- unmarried partners
- lesbian or gay partners not in a civil partnership
- relations by marriage
- close friends
However, even if you can’t inherit under the rules of intestacy, you might be able to apply to court for reasonable financial help from the estate of the person who has died intestate if you were dependent on them for example. Please contact one of our Contentious Probate Solicitors to discuss. There is a strict timescale for this.
If there are no surviving relatives
The estate may pass to the Crown in these circumstances
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This article does not necessarily deal with every important topic or cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not designed to provide legal or other advice. If you require specialist advice on this topic, please contact us to discuss how we may assist you.