Intestacy Rules Explained


Someone who dies “intestate” is a person who dies without a valid Will. Alternatively, a valid Will may have been made, but this mightn’t cover all of the deceased’s Estate (i.e. everything the deceased person owned at the time of death).

In this situation, only part of the Estate would be intestate. Unfortunately, as many adults in the UK have not made a Will, we see intestacy all too commonly. It can cause a major headache for surviving family members, and means some will miss out on what they hoped they would be entitled to.

Any intestate proportion of an Estate must be divided and split amongst family members according to strict statutory rules laid out in the Administration of Estates Act 1925, which are called the “Rules of Intestacy”. Even if the family know what their loved one would have wanted, they’re legally obliged to follow the rules laid down in this Act.

For the individual who has died, this can mean that their wishes aren’t carried out, which can be very difficult for surviving family members who don’t receive what they’d hoped for. This in turn can lead to financial difficulty and put a strain on family relations. This is particularly likely to be the case for a surviving spouse, who may be left with less than they had anticipated.

For free initial legal advice get in touch with our Contentious Probate Solicitors.

Call us on 0808 239 4634 or request a callback

Rules of Intestacy Explained

The intestacy rules outline in which order assets should be distributed to surviving family members. The order is:

  • Spouse/Civil partner
  • Children/Grandchildren
  • Parents
  • Brothers and Sisters
  • Grandparents
  • Uncles and Aunts

The intestacy rules can become a little complex but, in general, the surviving relative that is ranked the highest according to these rules will take priority.

For example:

a) If the Estate is valued under £250,000: The deceased’s spouse/civil partner will inherit the entire Estate. If there is no surviving spouse/civil partner, then the Estate is split equally amongst children and their descendants.

b) If the Estate is valued over £250,000 and there are surviving children/grandchildren: The deceased’s spouse/civil partner will inherit all personal possessions and the first £250,000. Half of the remaining Estate will also go to the spouse/civil partner. The remaining half will be split equally between the children. If there is no surviving spouse/civil partner, then the Estate is split equally amongst the children and their descendants.

If the deceased has no surviving relatives on the list, then their Estate passes to the Crown. This is known as Bono Vacantia.

Many Families Affected

The following hypothetical scenario describes a common situation faced by many families.

Mr Smith - husband to Mrs Smith, father to three children and grandfather to six - sadly passes away. It’s a busy and difficult time for the surviving relatives, as they must now deal with Mr Smith’s affairs, including funeral arrangements and dividing and distributing his assets.

This isn’t a small task as Mr Smith has a sizeable Estate, including his home, cars, investments and savings, all of which need to be divided between his surviving relatives. But the family can’t actually locate a Will, despite searching the home and contacting local Solicitors’ firms. As it turns out, Mr Smith never actually made a Will.

What Should I Do?

The best way to avoid issues with intestacy is to seek legal advice from a Wills and Trusts Solicitor to make a valid, watertight Will. This should consider all your assets so that no portion of your Estate will be intestate.

At Simpson Millar, our Solicitors are very experienced at Will writing and the surrounding legal issues. We work openly and sensitively with our clients to ensure that they obtain a Will that considers all of their wishes.

We understand that making a Will might seem like a rather morbid task, but it will give you peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out when you pass on and ensure that family members don’t miss out.

For free legal advice call our Wills and Trusts Solicitors

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