Who gets what under the intestacy rules in the UK
If you are in dispute over the intestacy rules then contact our free legal helpline on 0808 139 1599 or send an email to us at [email protected]
We all know how important it is to have a will, yet millions of us put it off and, in doing so, run the risk of letting the state determine how our assets should be distributed on our death.
Lawyers describe someone who passes away without a will as dying ‘intestate’.
It is the intestacy rules that determine who gets what if you die without making a will.
Here are the latest intestacy rules as they apply now (as at February 2020):
You are married (or in a civil partnership) and your estate is worth less than £270,000
Under the intestacy rules, your surviving spouse/civil partner inherits everything.
You are married (or in a civil partnership), your estate is worth more than £270,000 and you have no children.
Again under the rules, your surviving spouse/civil partner inherits it all.
You are married (or in a civil partnership), your estate is worth more than £270,000 and you have children.
Intestacy now starts to get complex and potentially problematic for the surviving spouse/civil partner. The first £270,000* and the personal possessions will go to the spouse/civil partner. The remainder of the estate will be divided in half, with half going straight to the surviving spouse and the other half being divided between surviving children.
If any child should pre-decease you, then their own children (your grandchildren), would get their parent’s share and so on if a grandchild has predeceased.
Adopted children have the same status as biological children in relation to their adoptive parent’s estate under the intestacy rules. For further details see our guide to the inheritance rights of adopted children.
You are not married (or in a civil partnership) but have children
Under the rules your children will inherit everything equally. Again, if a child has pre-deceased you, then their children will get their parent’s share (or children’s children etc)
You are not married (or in a civil partnership) and have no children
Under intestacy, your surviving relatives will inherit in the following order:
- Brothers or sisters or their children (or children’s children etc);
- Half brother or sisters or their children (or children’s children etc);
- Uncles or aunts (brothers and sisters of the whole blood of a parent) or their children (or children’s children etc); and
- Uncles and aunts (brothers and sisters of the half blood of a parent) or their children (or children’s children etc).
If you have no surviving spouse/civil partner, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, first cousins etc then everything will go to the Crown!
Avoiding Intestacy Problems
If the intestacy rules cause financial hardship then a claim under the Inheritance Act can be considered.
However, the best way of avoiding the unintended consequences of the intestacy rules is quite simply to make a will. It is easy to do and cheaper then you probably think.
You can also read our helpful intestacy rules FAQs.
- The intestacy rules do not recognise unmarried “common law” partners.
- The intestacy rules allow a 28 day survivorship period.
- To inherit under the intestacy rules a person needs to be aged 18 or over or have married earlier. If they inherit as a minor the gift will be held on trust for them until they reach the age of 18. If they do not reach the age of 18 (i.e. they either pre-decease as a minor or die before coming of age) the gift will revert to the people entitled in the same class or the next class below if no such person in a same class exists.
- The end result of the intestacy rules can be unfair, especially for surviving spouses. They may however be entitled to seek more adequate provisions by making a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 or by seeking a discretionary grant from the Crown if the estate passes to the Crown.
- However, the best way of avoiding the unintended consequences of the intestacy rules is quite simply to make a will. It is easy to do and cheaper then you probably think.
If you require guidance about who gets what under the intestacy rules in the UK or would like to make a claim under the Inheritance Act then contact our free inheritance helpline on 0808 139 1599 or email us at [email protected]
*The figure of £270,000 applies from 6 February 2020. It was previously £250,000.