When does someone automatically inherit?

When a loved one dies, will I automatically inherit?

The law provides for people to automatically inherit in specific situations. Automatic inheritance occurs under the principle of survivorship and under the intestacy rules.


Where property is owned as joint tenants and one of the owners dies, their equal share of the property will pass to the other joint owner(s) automatically on their death. This is known as the principle of survivorship.
It therefore follows that property owned under a joint tenancy cannot be passed on in a Will.
It is however important to remember that not all jointly owned property is held under a joint tenancy. Property can also be owned jointly as ‘tenants in common’. The principle of survivorship does not apply to tenants in common, so you will not automatically inherit.
It therefore follows that property owned as tenants in common can be passed on in a Will.

Intestacy Rules

The intestacy rules determine how property passes when someone dies without having made a valid Will.
Property is automatically inherited under the intestacy rules according to an order of priority specified by the government.
For instance, under the current intestacy rules (September 2023) where there is a surviving spouse and no children, the spouse will automatically inherit the whole estate.

However, where there is both a surviving spouse and children, then the spouse receives the ‘personal chattels’ and a statutory legacy (currently £322,000 as at September 2023), The rest of the estate is then divided equally between the spouse (who receives 50%) and the children (50% divided between however many children there are).

Challenging these automatic provisions

The Inheritance Act can be used to challenge both the principle of survivorship and the intestacy rules.
If you require guidance on your inheritance rights then you can contact us on 0333 888 0407 for FREE initial case assessment or send brief details to us by email at [email protected]
When does someone automatically inherit?