What Happens if You Die Without a Will?

When a family member passes away, how their estate is distributed is determined by a valid will. Yet, if you die without a will then the process of sorting out the estate and who benefits becomes more complex.

If a person dies without a valid will then they are considered to have died intestate, and determining how an estate will be distributed in such cases is governed by the laws of intestacy in the UK. So, what are the laws of intestacy and who can inherit if no valid will is present?

Here is our guide as to what happens if you die without a will.

What Are the Impacts of Dying Without a Will?

A will is an essential part of your estate plan and can make a big difference at the time of death, especially for your family. If you die without a will then the process of determining who benefits from your estate will become more complex and can take longer to resolve – this could put undue stress on your closest relatives, especially during a vulnerable time.

You will have no executor for your estate which will mean a number of duties and responsibilities will need to be undertaken by an appointed administrator. Your next of kin can apply to be an administrator however there are strict rules and an order of priority to be considered.

Common law relationships are not recognised and therefore without a civil partnership or marriage your partner is not entitled to inherit, nor are step-children or foster children under the law of intestacy.

These are just some of the issues that occur when dying intestate. When someone dies without a will the rules of intestacy will come into force, these are explained below:

The Laws of Intestacy Explained

While the laws of intestacy can be complex, this is a general run down of how they work:

  • Where the deceased is survived by a spouse or partner and their children, the spouse or partner will receive the first £270,000 of the estate and half of the remaining estate. The children will inherit the rest of the estate unless the value is less than £270,000, in which case the partner or spouse will inherit the full estate.
  • If there are surviving children (including those adopted) of the deceased but no living spouse or civil partner then the estate is divided equally among the children. If one of the children has died, then their share is divided equally among their own living offspring.
  • Where there is no living spouse, partner, children or other descendants, then the estate is distributed evenly among the surviving parents.
  • If the previous conditions are not met and there are no surviving parents, then the estate will be evenly distrusted among the deceased’s full-blooded brothers and sisters or their offspring.
  • Where no full-blood siblings or their descendants survive, the estate is distributed among any half-blood siblings or their children.
  • If no siblings, half or full-blood, survive, nor their descendants, then the estate passes to any surviving grandparents of the deceased.
  • Should there be no surviving grandparents, then the estate passes to the deceased’s surviving full-blood uncles and aunts or their offspring.
  • If there are no surviving full-blood uncles, aunts or any descendants, then the estate passes to any half-blood uncles and aunts or their offspring.
  • Should none of the above apply, the estate is declared ownerless, or Bona Vacantia, and passes to the Crown.

For more information on the rules of Instency visit our dedicated page – Intestacy Rules.

Anglia Research

Our team at Anglia Research has the knowledge and expertise to unravel even the most complicated of cases. For more information, visit our Case Histories page, or learn more about the laws of intestacy.

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