In: Wills and Probate

When someone in your family has died, it is often assumed that they will have left a will that details how their estate and finances will be dealt with. However, when a person dies without leaving a valid will, their property (the estate) must be shared out according to certain rules, known as the rules of intestacy. If there are no surviving relatives who can inherit under the rules of intestacy, then the estate passes to the Crown and the Treasury solicitor is then responsible for dealing with the estate. If you are not a surviving relative but you believe that you have a good reason to apply for a grant, then you will need legal advice.


Rules of Intestacy


What are the rules of intestacy?

When someone dies without leaving a will, they are referred to as an intestate person. Under the rules of intestacy, only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit anything. Married or civil partners inherit under the rules of intestacy only if they are married or in a civil partnership at the time of death. So, if you are divorced or your civil partnership has been legally ended, you can’t inherit under the rules of intestacy. However, if you separated informally then you can still inherit, but cohabiting partners who were not legally married or in a civil partnership cannot.

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:

  • Half of the remaining estate
  • The first £270,000 of the estate
  • All the personal property and belongings of the person who has died

If there are no surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, the partner will inherit:

  • All the personal property and belongings of the person who has died and
  • The whole of the estate with interest from the date of death

Those who can inherit include:

  • Children

There are differing rules if there is a surviving married or civil partner, which a solicitor will be able to explain to you in more detail.

  • Married and Civil Partners
  • Grandchildren and great grandchildren

This can happen only when 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.

  • Parents
  • Brothers and sisters
  • Nieces and nephews

Those who cannot inherit include:

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

Read more about how our wills, trust and probate solicitors can help you.

Rearranging the estate shares

Once it has been established who inherits under the rules of intestacy, it is possible to rearrange the way that the property is shared out, provided that this is done within two years of the death. This is called making a deed of family arrangement or variation. All the people who would inherit under the rule of intestacy must agree. If they do agree, the property can be shared out in a different way so that people who do not inherit under the intestacy rules can still get some of the estate. Or they could agree that the amount the people get is different to the amount that they would get under the rules of intestacy.

The rules of intestacy can seem complicated and overwhelming to deal with after the death of someone in your family. At AWH, our expert solicitors have a great deal of experience in matters of this kind. We can guide you throughout the process, and make sure that everyone involved is happy with the outcome. Get in touch today for helpful advice.

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