• Emma Walsh

What are the rules of Intestacy?

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

It’s easy to assume that our property and possessions will automatically go to loved ones when we die, however, this is sadly not always the case




The rules of intestacy and inheritance law explained

When someone dies without a valid Will there are strict inheritance laws, often referred to as the Rules of Intestacy, which apply in England and Wales. The Rules of Intestacy don’t allow for modern family relationships - for example the Rules of Intestacy:

  • make no provision for unmarried and unregistered partners. This means that on Intestacy, the surviving partner will not automatically inherit any of the property and possessions owned in the sole name of the deceased. However, a partner can often make a valid inheritance claim instead, or the family can legally vary the distribution on intestacy to provide for the partner.

  • only recognise natural and adopted children for the purpose of inheritance; they do not acknowledge step children. However, in many cases step children can often have a valid claim.



Under the Rules of Intestacy, the estate will be divided between their relatives as follows...

If the person who died was married or in a civil partnership and has no children, all of their estate will go to their spouse or civil partner.

If the person who died was married or in a civil relationship but does have children, the first £270,000 of their estate will go to their spouse or civil partner, along with any of their personal possessions. Anything over £270,000 will then be divided, with the spouse or civil partner receiving 50% of this and the children entitled to divide the other 50% between them.

If the person who died wasn't married or in a civil partnership, but was living with their long term partner, this partner will not be entitled to receive anything. Co-habiting partners and long term partners are not protected under the rules of intestacy. The law does not recognise the concept of a ‘common law spouse’.

If the person who died was't married or in a civil partnership, but does have children, the whole estate will go to them. If there are no children, then the estate could go to the parents, siblings or other relatives.

It is important to note that jointly held assets may not pass under the rules of intestacy but instead pass to the surviving joint owner. This is the case where a house is owned with someone else as ‘joint tenants’ or there's a joint bank account. It works differently for property owned jointly as 'tenants in common' though. For more information, see joint tenants and tenants in common.

The only way to make it absolutely clear who should inherit your property and possessions after you pass away is by making a Will.

Administering an estate under the Rules of Intestacy

When an adult person with assets, such as property, money and possessions, dies without a valid Will they are said to have died Intestate. In these circumstances the Rules of Intestacy will apply and these rules determine who will administer, and who will benefit from, the deceased’s Estate.

In these circumstances, before it can be determined who the beneficiaries are, the first step is to establish who should be administering the estate.

When identifying Estate administrators and beneficiaries, great care and diligence is required to avoid any mistakes being made, because an Estate Administrator can be held personally financially liable for any loss resulting from a breach of their duty, even if any mistakes made were genuine human error.

This is where our Probate and Estate Administration expertise is invaluable. We offer a sympathetic ear when bereaved people need it most.

Administering an estate under the Rules of Intestacy

When an adult person with assets, such as property, money and possessions, dies without a valid Will they are said to have died Intestate. In these circumstances the Rules of Intestacy will apply and these rules determine who will administer, and who will benefit from, the deceased’s Estate.

In these circumstances, before it can be determined who the beneficiaries are, the first step is to establish who should be administering the estate.

When identifying Estate administrators and beneficiaries, great care and diligence is required to avoid any mistakes being made, because an Estate Administrator can be held personally financially liable for any loss resulting from a breach of their duty, even if any mistakes made were genuine human error.

This is where our Probate and Estate Administration expertise has been invaluable for thousands of our customers across England and Wales. We offer a sympathetic ear when bereaved people need it most.

We can provide as much help and guidance as you require. We can:


  • help you understand who the Estate Administrators are.

  • explain the duties, the responsibilities and the liabilities of an Estate Administrator.

  • take on all the legal responsibilities of the Estate.



FOR HELP & ADVICE ON WILL DRAFTING, LPA'S &PROBATE

CONTACT WALSH WEST LAW 7 DAYS A WEEK:

+44 0203 488 7503 / 01992 236 110

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