What happens if you die without making a Will? – Death and Intestacy


Although we are constantly encouraging and advising people to make Wills not everybody follows this advice.

Therefore what happens if you die without making a Will? In this case your estate falls to be dealt with in accordance with the law of intestate succession and it is commonly known as an ‘intestacy’.

But who inherits under an intestacy?

Husbands, wives and civil partners automatically think that everything goes to the survivor but this is not always the case. The relatives who may benefit on an intestacy are:

1. Spouse or civil partner.
2. Children or remoter lineal descendants.
3. Parents.
4. Brothers and sisters of the whole blood or their children.
5. Brothers and sisters of the half blood or their children.
6. Grandparents.
7. Uncles and aunts of the whole blood or their children.
8. Uncles and aunts of the half blood or their children.

Who takes what will depend upon the size of the estate and which if any of the above groups of relatives are living at the time the intestacy arises.

If there is a surviving spouse or civil partner and there are no other relatives that are in the list then the surviving spouse or civil partner will take the whole of the estate.

If there is a surviving spouse or civil partner and there are children, the spouse or civil partner takes the personal belongings together with a fixed sum of £250,000 and a life interest in one half of the balance of the rest of the estate. The other half of the estate passes to the children.

A life interest means they do not get the assets absolutely they just get them for their lifetime and they will then pass to the children.

If there are no children but a surviving spouse or civil partner and either parents or brothers or sisters then the surviving spouse or civil partner takes the first £450,000 with an absolute interest in one half of the balance of the residuary estate and the other half will pass to the parents or brothers and sisters.

If you die leaving no spouse or civil partner but leave children then the whole estate passes to the children in equal shares.

If you die leaving no spouse or civil partner or children but there are relatives in any of the categories above then those relatives take the residuary estate in that order. Nobody is able to take a benefit under an intestacy if there is a person in a higher category that has survived.

If there are no surviving relatives from any of the above categories the residuary estate will pass to the Crown or the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duke of Cornwall.

Sometimes dying without a Will can be complicated depending on your family therefore it is very important that you do make a Will and tell the person drafting this full details of your family so they can advise you correctly.

The more information that the Will drafter has the better they can draft the Will for you so it does carry out your wishes.

by Sarah Lamb from the Wisbech office