Dying with no Will

Who Gets What?

If you die without leaving a valid Will, then you are said to have died intestate. In this situation, the law decides who gets what.

It makes no difference what you may have wished for or promised while you were alive; if there is no valid Will, then your estate and loved ones will be at the mercy of the rules of intestacy,. Here is an explanation of how they work.

If you have a lawful spouse or civil partner (i.e. you are legally married) and no other relatives

  • If your estate were worth less than £450,000 then your spouse would get everything.
  • If your estate were worth more than £450,000 and you have no other surviving relative (e.g. children, grandchildren, parents), then your spouse would still get everything.

If you have a lawful spouse, plus children

  • If your estate is worth less than £250,000 then your spouse gets everything.
  • If your estate is worth more than £250,000 then your spouse would get £250,000 and a life interest (i.e. the right to take interest on the remainder, but not the capital itself) in half of anything over this sum. Your children would get the remaining half of the sum over £250,000 immediately and be entitled to the other half on the death of your spouse. Should any of your children die before you then their children would be entitled to take their parent's share.

If you have a lawful spouse, no children, but parents/brothers/sisters/ grandparents/aunts/uncles

  • If your estate is worth less than £450,000 then your spouse gets everything.
  • If your estate is worth more than £450,000 then your spouse would get £450,000, plus half the balance. The remaining half goes to the other relatives in this order of priority - parents; brothers/sisters; half brothers/sisters; grandparents; aunts/uncles; spouses of aunts/uncles.

If you are not lawfully married, but have had children

  • Your estate will be shared between the children. Should they die before you then their children would take their share. Your partner will get nothing.

If you are not lawfully married, have no children, but have parents or have had brothers/sisters/grandparents/aunts/uncles

  • Your estate will be shared equally amongst them in this order of priority - parents; brothers/sisters; half brothers/sisters; grandparents; aunts/uncles; spouses of aunts/uncles. If any of these have predeceased, but have living children then the children will take their parent's share. 

If you are not lawfully married, and have no other relatives

  • Your entire estate will go to the Crown.

It should be noted that these rules on intestacy do not recognise "common law" partners, and that "children" includes natural, adopted and illegitimate children, but excludes step-children.

The Importance of a Valid Will

Naturally, it would be in the interests of you and your would-be beneficiaries to have a valid Will in place, even if the rules of intestacy look likely to work in your favour anyway. Having a will can save your family a great deal of worry and stress in the wake of your death.

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