Will writing

The Law of Intestacy – when no will is available

If someone dies without a will or if the will is not valid, they will die 'intestate' and the rules of intestacy will apply to their estate. This user guide is to help you better understand the law of intestacy. If your question remains unanswered, contact our Specialist Solicitors today.

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The Law of Intestacy

If someone dies intestate, the rules of intestacy apply to their estate. The rules of intestacy distribute the estate between different beneficiaries according to a fixed order of priority. Usually, this is how you end up with money or property from a distant relative. Or, if we look at it from a different angle, this is how someone you may not know can profit from your estate.

The intestacy law acts in the following cases:

  • Someone dies without a will
  • The will is not valid
  • The will does not cover all eventualities and part of the estate remains undisposed of

To ensure your estate is shared according to your wishes, we strongly advise you to write a will. Contact us for expert legal advice.

If you want to figure out who inherits in a specific scenario, we recommend using this online flowchart created by the government or contact us.

Below, you can find a brief outline of how the rules of intestacy could apply to your own estate.

I am married or in a civil partnership

  • If you don't have children, your spouse will receive everything
  • If you have children, your spouse will receive the first £250,000 all personal possessions of the deceased and half of everything that remains. The other half is divided equally among your children.
  • Your spouse is a beneficiary even if you are separated.

I have children

  • If you don't have a spouse, everything will be shared equally among your children.
  • Children from former relationships will benefit equally.
  • Adopted children and stepchildren who are adopted by their step-parent will have a right to inherit under the rules of intestacy
  • Stepchildren that are not adopted by their step-parent and foster children do not have an automatic right to inherit under the rules of intestacy. To include these loved ones, you must make a will

I don't have children or a spouse

  • If you don't have children or a spouse, everything will be shared between your parents.
  • Adoptive parents are included in this category if their adopted child dies intestate
  • If you don't have any parents, your estate will be shared between your siblings of the whole blood (or their children or descendants if your sibling of the whole blood died before you)
  • If you don't have any siblings of the whole blood, your siblings of the half-blood will divide the estate equally between them (or their children or descendants if your sibling of the half-blood died before you)
  • If you don't have a spouse, children, siblings of the full blood or siblings of the half blood, next in line will be the following relatives:

Caring for your loved ones

The intestacy law is based on the traditional perception of a family. Even if you've spent twenty years with your partner, if you are not married or in a civil partnership, they will be left with nothing.

The same can happen to stepchildren or foster children, if they are not adopted. We want you to be able to choose who should benefit from your estate and strongly advise you to make a will. Contact us for further assistance.

Case studies

No living relatives in an estate administration

Mary Fielden of Manchester was a lively character who'll be sadly missed by her neighbours and carers.

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