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What Happens to Your Estate If You Pass Away Without a Will?

What Happens to Your Estate If You Pass Away Without a Will?

When a person dies without leaving a valid will, their estate must be divided according to specified regulations. The rules of intestacy are what they’re termed. An intestate individual is someone who dies without leaving a will.

Under the rules of intestacy, only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit.

If a will is made, but not legally valid, the intestacy rules will supersede the preferences indicated in the invalid will.

Civil partners and married partners

Only married or civil partners who are actually married or in a civil relationship at the time of death inherit under the norms of intestacy. Intestacy rules state that if you are divorced, or your civil partnership has been lawfully ended, you will not be able to inherit.

Under the norms of intestacy, partners who divorced informally can still inherit. Under the norms of intestacy, cohabiting partners (often incorrectly referred to as “common-law” partners) who are not married or in a civil partnership cannot inherit.

If the individual who died had surviving children, grandkids, or great-grandchildren, and the estate is worth more than £270,000, the partner will inherit:

  • all of the deceased person’s goods and things, and
  • the estate’s first £270,000, and
  • the remaining portion of the estate

Example: Sarah was married to George, and the couple adopted a daughter named Shaniah. Sarah passed away without a will. Her estate is estimated to be worth £450,000. After Fang receives her £270,000 inheritance, the estate is valued at £180,000. Fang is entitled to half of the money – £90,000.

If neither a spouse nor a civil partner survives, the estate is distributed in the following way:

  • equal shares are distributed to the surviving children (or to their children if they died while the deceased was still alive)
  • if no children are present, to the parents (equally, if both alive)
  • If there are no living parents, the dead’s siblings and sisters, or their offspring, will inherit if they died while the deceased was still alive.
  • If none of the following applies, then the estate will go to the grandparents (equally if more than one)
  • If there are no grandparents, aunts and uncles are the next in line or their children if they died while the deceased was still alive)
  • If none of the above applies, the estate is given to the Crown (via the Crown Solicitor’s Office).

How can an inheritance be safeguarded?

Making sure your estate isn’t subject to intestacy rules is simple: make sure you have a legally binding will in place before you die. You can do this at any age; in fact, the number of young people preparing wills (especially those with children) is on the rise.


Dying without a will can be very stressful for your family members. If you make changes to your will, be sure to update your beneficiaries and financial institutions.

If you need legal advice about estate planning, will make, or family law issues, contact one of our wills and probate experts for a discussion.

Wills and Probate is a firm that assists with understanding estate planning in the UK. If you require reliable wealth managers, we make an excellent choice, given that we offer comprehensive services with years of experience behind us. Contact us today to learn more about our services!