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Intestacy rules: what happens if you don’t have a will, and why you should make one

On April 20, 2018

Intestacy rules: what happens if you don’t have a will, and why you should make one

Have you thought about what will happen to your property, savings and possessions when you pass away? You might assume that they’ll go to your loved ones but if you don’t have a will, intestacy rules decide who gets what – and this might not be in line with your wishes.


What is intestacy?

According to the Citizens Advice Bureau: “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. A person who dies without leaving a will is called an intestate person.”

What are the common rules?

The Citizens Advice Bureau has a detailed guide to the rules of intestacy but we’ve provided a basic summary of how your estate would be shared out in common circumstances.

Your circumstancesIntestacy rules
You don’t have a partner (someone you’re married to/in a civil partnership with) or any childrenYour parents, siblings and nieces/nephews are first in line to inherit your estate, but if you don’t have any surviving parents or siblings then grandparents and uncles/aunts (or cousins if there are no surviving uncles/aunts) are next in line.


Non-legal partners have no rights to inherit, and nor do in-laws (relations by marriage), friends or carers.

You have a partner but no childrenYour partner will inherit your entire estate as long as you were married/in a civil partnership at the time of your death.


This applies even if you’re informally separated, but if your marriage/civil partnership has legally ended (or you were never married/in a civil partnership) then your partner won’t inherit anything.

You have a partner and childrenThe above applies but your partner will only inherit part of your estate – comprising your property, belongings, the first £250,000 of your assets plus half the remaining amount.


The remainder of your estate will be shared out equally to your children.

You don’t have a partner but you do have childrenYour children will inherit your whole estate and share it equally.
You don’t have a partner or any surviving relativesYour estate passes to the Crown and Her Majesty’s Treasury becomes responsible for administering the estate.


Don’t let the law decide on your estate – make a will


The rules of intestacy are strict and often criticised for not reflecting the variety of modern families; for example they don’t acknowledge non-legalised partnerships (which affects many LGBT couples) or step-children (unless they have been adopted).


If you want to make sure that your estate goes to your loved ones, the only way to specify who should get what is by making a legally valid will which reflects your wishes. It’s especially worth making a will if you’re a newly married couple combining assets for the first time or you have young children whose future you want to protect.


Visit the wills and probate section of our website or call 0161 678 996 to find out how we can help you.


  • By Peter Robinson  0 Comments