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Estate Planning 101: Everything to Know About Intestacy

Estate Planning 101: Everything to Know About Intestacy

Estate planning is a crucial step taken by many people because it will turn their possessions over to the right people when they pass. One must do it, no matter how early it may be. If a person doesn’t do so, their estate is distributed according to the intestacy rules.

Intestacy refers to the laws that govern what happens to a person’s assets when they pass. The rules state that assets are distributed to beneficiaries when a person does not have a valid will. An estate is distributed based on intestacy rules, depending on if a person dies without a spouse or children.

The intestacy rules are highly complicated, so we’ll discuss them in this article. Read on below to get started.

How Intestacy Works

In the UK, intestacy rules use the term “primary beneficiaries” to denote a surviving spouse or civil partner. Depending on the circumstances, the intestacy rules in some cases will also refer to “secondary beneficiaries”.

In the event of a spouse’s death, the rule states that their estate is distributed to their surviving spouse and children. The rationale behind this rule is to provide financial support to the spouse’s family members. If there is no surviving spouse or children, the estate will go to the deceased’s parents.

A spouse can get the deceased’s estate, but not all of it. The terms are as follows:

  • If you have no children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, the estate goes to the spouse.
  • Only the first £270,000 of your estate if you have children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, plus half of the estate. The other half of the rest of the estate will go to your children.

Exceptions to the Rule

Beyond the conditions mentioned above, there are also other ways a spouse can get the estate. These include:

  • If you have joint bank accounts, the account is automatically handed over.
  • If you own land or property, it will go to the spouse (the same goes for if you’re beneficial joint tenants).
  • Half will go to them if you have children, while the other half will go to the surviving spouse.

What If You Have Children from Another Relationship or Adopted?

In the case of a surviving spouse, the same rules apply to a spouse who has children from the deceased. They get the estate according to the terms above. However, if a person’s spouse is married to a person married to the dead, the spouse who is not married to the deceased will only get up to £45,000 from the estate.

Other Important Things to Remember

It’s important to note that there are other exceptions to the rules. For instance, if a person dies without a spouse or children, the intestacy rules state that the property will go to their parents. The same applies to children from another relationship, meaning that the property will go to their parents (if living) instead of them.

Furthermore, if a person has a surviving spouse, children, and parents, the spouse gets the property before the parents do. This is to provide for the family member who will most likely require the money for their use.

Other intestacy rules apply to what happens to a person’s possessions if they have no surviving spouse, children, or parents. The rules state that this person’s property goes to the closest next of kin according to the following order:

  • A parent
  • A brother or sister of the deceased
  • Uncles and aunts
  • A grandparent
  • A great-grandparent
  • A nephew or niece of the deceased
  • A great-nephew or great-niece of the dead.

If they are not financially independent, the estate won’t go to the deceased’s grandparents, great-grandparents, nephews or nieces, nephews or nieces. The same is true for the parents and grandparents if they are not financially independent.


Intestate rules are in place so that a person’s estate is distributed to the appropriate relatives of the deceased. As such, it’s a highly complicated issue and understanding it is crucial. Consult with an estate planner to ensure everything is accounted for without lapses.

Wills and Probate is a financial company that provides top-quality services for estate planning in the UK. We understand how precious your belongings are to you, so we’ll ensure that they go to the right people according to your wishes. Reach out today for a consultation!