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The importance of making a will: Intestacy

Written by Itziar

Luke died without a will. He was single with no children. He has no brothers or sisters, and his parents and grandparents died. Who does inherit?

If Luke dies intestate (without having a will), the law sets out who inherits according to the Rules of Intestacy (Administration of Estates Act 1925).

A person's inheritance is determined by the estate's value and the relationship of surviving family members. No one could inherit automatically if there were no formal legal relationships such as marriage, civil partnership or blood relation.

See this flowchart below:

When someone dies without having a valid will, the intestacy rules decide who inherits his estate. The intestacy rules vary if the estate is less or more than £270,000.

  • Estate worth less than £270,000: The spouse or civil partner who survives at least 28 days after the deceased intestate inherits the whole estate.
    If a husband dies just two weeks after his wife, her estate goes to her children or close relatives if there are no children and whether or not the husband has a valid will.
  • Estate over £270,000: In this case, the estate is divided between the children of the person that died and the surviving partner or spouse. Only those whose relationship to the person is by blood can inherit, except adopted children who have full rights. If a child is entitled to inherit under the Rules of Intestacy and dies before the current death, their share passes to his descendants, if any.

The intestacy rules and inheritance tax can be avoided if you make a valid will and seek legal advice.

Who does inherit under the intestacy rules?

  • Married and civil partners inherit if they are married or in a civil partnership at the time of the death. Divorced or dissolved civil partnerships don't inherit.
  • If the person who died has children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren and the estate is valued at more than £270,000; the partner will inherit: the first £270,000 of the estate and all the personal property and belongings of the person who has died and half of the remaining estate.
  • Jointly-owned property. If the partners are beneficial joint tenants at the time of the death, the surviving partner inherits the other partner's share of the property.
  • If the partners are tenants in common, the surviving partner does not inherit the other person's share.

Close relatives

  • The children of a person who has died without a will (if there is no surviving partner) inherit the whole estate.
  • Children, if there is a surviving partner, inherit if the estate of the person who died is valued at over £270,000. If there are several children, they will inherit in equal shares.
  • Adopted children also have the right to inherit as step-children their step-parent has adopted.

Children won't receive the inheritance until they are 18 or marry and form a civil partnership under that age.

  • A grandchild or great-grandchild inherits from the estate of an intestate if:
  • Their parent or grandparent has died before the intestate person, or
  • Their parent is alive when the intestate person dies but dies before the age of 18 without having married or formed a civil partnership.

Other close relatives such as parents, sisters, brothers or nephews and nieces of the intestate inherit under the rules of intestacy depending on different circumstances:

  • If there is a surviving married or civil partner
  • If there are children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
  • In the case of nephews and nieces, whether the parent directly related to the person who had died is also dead
  • The amount of the estate

As mentioned above, other relatives can also inherit if there aren't close relatives. The order of other relatives to inherit is:

  • Grandparents
  • Uncles and Aunts. A cousin can inherit instead of the uncle or aunt if they have died before the intestate person.
  • Half-uncles and half-aunts. A half-cousin can inherit the half-uncle or half-aunt instead if they have died before the intestate.

People who cannot inherit when someone dies without a will:

  • Unmarried partners
  • Relations by marriage
  • Close friends
  • Lesbian or gay partners that are not in a civil partnership
  • Carers

Although they can apply to the court for financial provisions from the estate.

In the cases of not surviving relatives that can inherit under the rules of intestacy, the estate passes to the Crown, known as bona vacantia.

Category: Legacy
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