Understanding the Rules of Intestacy in England and Wales

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In the unfortunate event that someone dies without leaving a valid Will, the rules of intestacy come into play to determine how their estate will be distributed.

In England and Wales, these rules are governed by the Administration of Estates Act 1925, and they provide a clear framework for distributing the deceased’s assets among their surviving relatives.

1. No Will, No Choice

When a person dies without a Will, they are said to have died intestate. In such cases, the distribution of their estate is not left to chance; instead, it follows a set of predetermined rules.

These rules prioritise surviving family members, and the distribution is based on the legal relationship between the deceased and their relatives.

2. Spouse or Civil Partner’s Share

If the deceased was married or in a civil partnership, their spouse or civil partner is given the highest priority.

The surviving spouse or civil partner is entitled to the entire estate if there are no surviving children. If there are children, the spouse or civil partner receives the first £322,000 of the estate, plus personal belongings and half of the remaining estate, with the other half being distributed equally among the children and held on trust until age 18.

3. Children’s Inheritance

The estate is equally divided among the children if there is no surviving spouse or civil partner.

In cases where a child has predeceased the deceased but has left children of their own, the deceased child’s share is distributed among their own descendants.

4. Parents and Siblings

If there are no surviving spouse, civil partner, or children, the estate passes to the deceased’s parents.

If the parents are not alive, it is then distributed equally among the deceased’s siblings. In the absence of siblings, the estate passes to the deceased’s half-siblings.

5. Grandparents and Beyond

If there are no surviving parents, siblings, or half-siblings, the estate passes to the deceased’s grandparents.

If none are alive, the estate is distributed among the deceased’s aunts and uncles. Failing that, it extends to the deceased’s first cousins.

6. No Known Relatives

In rare circumstances where there are no known surviving relatives, the entire estate goes to the Crown. This is known as “bona vacantia” (ownerless goods) and is administered by the Crown as the last resort.

What about non-familial relationships?

It’s important to note that the rules of intestacy do not consider relationships outside of the family, such as close friends or unmarried partners. Without a valid Will, these individuals will not inherit from the deceased’s estate.

Contact our Wills and Estate Planning solicitors today

In conclusion, understanding the rules of intestacy in England and Wales is crucial, as it ensures that the deceased’s assets are distributed in a systematic manner among their surviving relatives.

However, it also highlights the importance of having a well-drafted Will to ensure that your wishes are respected and that the distribution of assets aligns with your intentions.

Please get in touch with our specialist Wills and Estate Planning team by using our online enquiry form or by calling 0330 404 0768.


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