Who Can Inherit Under Intestacy Rules?
If you die intestate (without a legally valid will) and don’t have any children, grandchildren or great grandchildren, your spouse or civil partner will receive your entire estate. If you have informally separated from your spouse or civil partner – even in cases of estrangement – they will receive everything unless you have actually divorced or legally ended your civil partnership.
If you do have children then your spouse or civil partner will receive the first £250,000 of your estate, as well as half of anything left over; the children or grandchildren etc will receive the other half.
If you have a joint bank account the account automatically passes to the other joint account holder.
When it comes to property or land, how it is dispersed after your death depends on how the ownership is detailed: If you own the property or land as beneficial joint tenants then your co-owner will automatically inherit your share upon your death. However if you own the property or land as tenants in common then your co-owner will not automatically inherit your share and it will be distributed under the Rules of Intestacy.
If you die without leaving a will and you are survived by children – either by birth or through legal adoption, the Rules of Intestacy will divide your estate in one of two ways:
If you have no spouse or civil partner at the time of your death then the entire estate will be inherited equally among your children.
If you do have a spouse or civil partner then the first £250,000 plus your personal possessions will go to them, with half of the rest being dispersed among your children and half to your spouse / civil partner. If your estate is worth less than £250,000 then it will all go straight to your spouse or civil partner.
Under the rules all of your children are treated equally: If you have children from a previous relationship or any legally adopted children they will receive the same as any others of your children, assuming that the estate is worth more than £250,000.
Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren
If you die without leaving a will your grandchildren and great grandchildren will only inherit part of your estate if their parent or grandparent died before you did, or if they die before reaching the age of 18 (unless they are married before that time). In these cases the grandchild / great grandchild will receive an equal share of the amount their parent / grandparent would have received.
There are some cases where parents, siblings, uncles, aunts or even cousins might inherit some of your estate. There is a strict order in which your estate is could be distributed:
If you have children they will inherit your estate (or the remainder of your estate after your spouse / civil partner has had their allocation) in equal shares.
If you don’t have children then your parents (if they are alive) will inherit in equal shares.
If you don’t have surviving parents then your siblings will inherit in equal shares. (If your sibling has died then their children will inherit in equal shares).
If you have none of the above, then any half-brothers or sisters you may have will inherit equal shares.
If you have none of those then it will be divided among your grandparents.
If you don’t have surviving grandparents it will go to your full-blood aunts and uncles – if they have died it will go to their children.
And if you don’t have any of those it will go to your half-blood aunts and uncles – if they have died it will go to their children.
Only if you have no surviving blood relatives will your estate be passed to the Crown.