Rules Of Intestacy: Who Will Inherit From Your Estate?

Death is an inevitable part of life, and while it’s not a pleasant subject to ponder, it is essential to be prepared for the unforeseen.

When someone passes away without leaving a valid Will, their estate becomes subject to the UK Rules of Intestacy. These rules govern how the deceased’s assets are distributed, ensuring a fair and structured process.

To help you understand the intricacies of the Rules of Intestacy more easily, our handy infographic visually illustrates the order of priority for asset distribution.

This infographic simplifies the step-by-step process of how the assets are divided among surviving relatives so you can grasp the key concepts at a glance.

The Rules of Intestacy 2023 | ELM Legal Services

In this article, we’ll take a more in-depth look at the UK Rules of Intestacy and shed light on what happens when someone dies without a Will, together with the implications it may have for their loved ones.

What is Intestacy?

Intestacy occurs when a person dies without leaving a valid Will, or their Will is deemed invalid. In such cases, the estate of the deceased person is distributed according to the UK Rules of Intestacy, which outline the order of priority for distributing the assets.

The Intestacy order of priority

If you have a spouse or civil partner

If you had a legally recognised spouse or civil partner at the time of your death, that person takes precedence in the distribution of your assets. In other words, they will inherit everything.

However, certain conditions must be met for the surviving spouse or civil partner to inherit the entire estate. If there are surviving children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, the spouse or civil partner will inherit:

  • All personal belongings and chattels.
  • The first £322,000 of the estate.
  • Half of the remaining estate.

The other half of the remaining estate will be distributed among your children or their descendants.

If you do not have a spouse or civil partner

If you don’t have a surviving spouse or civil partner, the following order applies when it comes to Intestacy.

1. Children

If you had children but no surviving spouse or civil partner, the estate will be divided equally among the children or their descendants if a child has predeceased (i.e. your grandchildren).

2. Parents

If you do not have a spouse, civil partner, or children, your parents will inherit the entire estate equally. If only one parent is alive, they will inherit the entire estate.

 3. Siblings

If there is no surviving spouse, civil partner, children, or parents, the estate will pass to your siblings or their descendants.

 4. Half-Siblings

If there are no siblings or their descendants, half-siblings will inherit your estate.

5. Grandparents

In the absence of closer relatives, your grandparents will inherit the estate.

6. Aunts and uncles

If you don’t have any grandparents, any aunts and uncles are next in line. Cousins can inherit if the aunts and uncles who would have inherited have passed away.

7. Half-aunts or half-uncles

The last relatives on the list are half-aunts and half-uncles, followed by any half-cousins.

8. The Crown

If no relatives within the specified categories can be found, the estate will pass to the Crown (the UK Government).

Important considerations

1. Unmarried partners and cohabitants

UK Intestacy rules do not provide for unmarried partners or cohabitants. Therefore, if you are in a long-term relationship but not legally married or in a civil partnership, your partner may not inherit any part of your estate under Intestacy laws.

2. Adopted children

Legally adopted children are treated the same as biological children under the UK Intestacy rules.

3. Foster children

Under Intestacy rules, foster children do not have a legal right to inherit.

4. Stepchildren and step-grandchildren

Stepchildren and step-grandchildren have no legal right to inherit under Intestacy laws.

5. Jointly owned assets

Assets held in joint tenancy, such as joint bank accounts or property, will automatically pass to the surviving joint owner and will not be part of the Intestacy process.

How can I ensure my estate is distributed according to my wishes?

Navigating the UK Rules of Intestacy can be complex and sometimes leave loved ones facing unforeseen challenges during an already difficult time. To ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes, it is vital to create a valid Will.

Seeking professional legal advice can be immensely helpful in understanding and planning your estate, and ensuring your loved ones are taken care of after you’re gone. Remember, while death is inevitable, a well-prepared estate plan can offer solace to those you leave behind.

Why choose ELM?

At ELM, we are experts in Wills, Probate, and Trusts, having assisted more than 30,000 clients across England and Wales.

Our Will writing service strikes the perfect balance between affordability and reliability.

We offer comprehensive legal support throughout the entire Will writing process, granting you peace of mind concerning your future wishes.

Get in touch

For further information on creating your Will, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today at 0117 952 0698 or submit a free, no-obligation enquiry. Our friendly team of experts will be delighted to assist you.

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