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Rules of Intestacy

Rules of Intestacy


Please note, this is a complicated area of law and we always advise that you speak to a solicitor to accurately assess your case in regards to intestacy. For expert advice, please call 0333 772 0409.


When a person dies without making a will, this is known as “intestacy” – and the Rules of Intestacy govern how the estate comprising the person’s money and property will be distributed among family members who are entitled to claim from the estate.


Under the rules of intestacy, the following family members may become beneficiaries and receive a share of the estate in the following order:


  • Spouse/civil partner
  • Children/grandchildren
  • Parents
  • Brothers/sisters
  • Grandparents
  • Uncles/aunts.


A co-habiting partner, common law partner, or girlfriend/boyfriend would not automatically have a right to claim from the estate.


Step-children or step-parents are not automatically eligible to inherit under the rules of intestacy.


If the estate were valued at £250,000 or less – including possessions – a surviving spouse or civil partner would inherit the whole estate.


However, with higher-value estates, any sum above £250,000 will be split – with the surviving spouse or civil partner being awarded 50%, while the remaining 50% will be distributed evenly between the spouse/civil partner, and their children or any grandchildren, if children are no longer living.


In cases where there is no surviving spouse/civil partner or children/grandchildren, the family members on the above list will become beneficiaries according to order of eligibility, with aunts and uncles only receiving a share if there are no surviving siblings or grandparents.


In cases where the deceased might have given financial support before they died to a family member or friend not automatically eligible to inherit, it may be possible for the dependant to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 within six months of probate being granted.


In some cases, families may agree to change the terms of the will – this could be done to make the will more tax efficient, for example, or so that money or property are distributed differently. This is often achieved via a Deed of Family Arrangement, which can be used to vary the terms of a will if all beneficiaries above the age of 18 agree.


In cases where there are no surviving family members and a person dies intestate, their estate will automatically go to the Crown.


For expert legal advice on wills and probate and Rules of Intestacy, call Duncan Lewis Wills and Probate solicitors in confidence on 0333 772 0409.


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