Dying intestate – what happens?

Dying intestate – what happens?

If you die without having made a will, then it means that you have died ‘intestate’. Similarly, if your will is determined to be invalid, then you are also considered to be intestate. For a brief reminder of when a will is not valid, take a look at last month’s entry on contesting a will. If you die intestate, then there are certain rules that apply determining how your property is to be distributed amongst your surviving relatives. Our focus this month is on this important topic, briefly covering what those intestacy rules are to help you understand where you stand.

Married or in a civil partnership

If this is you then your estate will be split as follows:

  • The first £250,000 will go to your spouse or partner. They will also get half of anything above this amount. If your estate is worth less than £250,000 then your partner or spouse will inherit that in full and nothing will be allocated to your children.
  • The remainder will go to your children, or grandchildren, if they have survived your children.
  • If your spouse or partner died before you then the full value of your estate is passed to your children.
  • If you have no children, then your spouse or partner will inherit the whole estate.

A couple of things to note:

  • Any part of your estate that is passed to your children will be shared among them equally.
  • Your spouse or partner will receive their share even if you are separated. If you are legally divorced or have ended your partnership then they will not be eligible to benefit.
  • For any children or grandchildren below 18 years of age, their share will be held in trust until they come of age.

Unmarried or widowed with no children

If you are widowed or cohabiting, in the eyes of the law you are single. In this instance, your estate is distributed as follows:

  • Any surviving children, or grandchildren if they survive their parents, will receive your estate in equal parts.
  • If you have no children, then your whole estate will go to your parents if they are alive, or your siblings if they are not.
  • If you have no blood relatives, then your estate is passed to the Crown.

Children from previous relationships

Any biological or legally adopted children will benefit from your estate in equal measure, as outlined above. It is important to note that stepchildren will not benefit, regardless of the length of time you have cared for them. If you have stepchildren then it is crucial to prepare a will if you want them to receive any part of your estate on your death.

Cohabiting and ‘common law’ partners

Contrary to popular belief, cohabiting partners, no matter how long they have been living together for, have no legal right to any part of your estate and will not receive anything if you die intestate.

These are just some of the most common examples of what happens according to the rules of intestacy. For full details for your individual circumstances, you can consult the government’s guide to intestacy or have a word with one of our team.

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