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Read more articles in: Blog, Linsey Graham, Private Client

The law of intestacy – what happens if someone dies with no Will?

In the event that a person dies without a valid Will, there are rules that must be followed when it comes to sharing out their property and any other assets.

The person who has died without a Will is called an intestate person.

Under the rules, only married/civil partners and select close relatives can inherit assets left by the intestate person.

The rules for intestacy can be complicated so it is important to make a valid Will if you have not already and continue to update it if any significant changes happen to you.

Who can inherit?


Those who are still married/in the partnership at the time of death can inherit under intestacy but if you are divorced or legally split from your partner then you cannot inherit anything when there is no legal Will in place.

If there was an informal separation then ex-partners can inherit legally under the rules.

Cohabiting partners cannot inherit anything if they were not married or in a civil partnership at the time of death.

When there are surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren of an intestate person, the inheritance that the partner receives will depend on how much their estate is valued at.

If the estate is valued at more than £270,000 then the partner will receive all the personal belongings of the intestate person, the first £270,000 of the estate and half of the remaining estate.

The other half is shared amongst any surviving children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

When there are no children or such, the partner will inherit the whole estate with interest from the date of death.

An important factor to remember is that under the rules of intestacy, a cohabiting partner living in a property owned by the intestate person would not inherit anything and would therefore need to leave the property.

This can become more complicated if there is an ex-partner whereby the separation was informal as that ex-partner would then inherit the estate over any cohabiting partner.


Children can inherit the full estate of an intestate person if their parents were not married or if their parents divorced and did not marry again. This would apply even if the intestate person had a new partner but was not married or in a civil partnership with them.

Children receive this inheritance when they turn 18 so until that point, trustees would manage the inheritance for them.

Children inherit equally, even if the intestate person has children from different relationships.

When there are no surviving relatives that can inherit under these rules, the estate is passed to the Crown and the Government Legal Department becomes responsible for dealing with it.

Intestacy can be complicated and does not always ensure that your estate goes to your loved ones.

We recommend having a valid Will in place to avoid the rules of intestacy.

To make a valid Will or update one, we can advise you in the process.

For more information on this topic, contact us today.

Linsey Graham

Senior Probate Executive – Wills, Probate & Older Client Services

I have worked for Mander Hadley for 17 years and specialise in Wills, trusts, tax, probate and the administration of estates.