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Intestacy - dying without a will

By Ian Robinson

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Intestacy - dying without a will

If you die without a will, your estate will be divided in line with intestacy rules. Here’s how they work.

If you die without a will, your estate will be divided according to standard rules, known as intestacy law - regardless of what your wishes. This process can be exceptionally complicated and long winded, and you might find your assets aren’t divided in the way you hoped.

Here we explain what is likely to happen to your possessions if you die without a will.

Find out more: Which? Wills - avoid complications and make a will with Which?

What is intestacy?

Dying without a will means that you have died intestate. The Administration of Estates Act determines how your estate is divided, and who will receive what. The most recent changes to these rules came into force on 1 October 2014.

The Law Commission is currently seeking views on how these rules should change, if at all. 

The rules are complex, and can change depending on your familial situation when you die.

If you’re dealing with the estate of someone who has died intestate, need individual advice on wills or any other aspect of your finances, you can speak to a member of the Which? Money Helpline team to get individual guidance.

Dying intestate - how will your estate be split up?

If you're married or in a civil partnership AND have children

If you're married or are in a civil partnership and have children but haven't written a will, your spouse will receive everything in your estate, including all personal possessions, up to the first £250,000.

Anything above that amount is divided in two - half goes to your children when they reach the age of 18, the other to your spouse.

If you're married or in a civil partnership, with NO children

If you're married or in a civil partnership and have no children, your spouse will receive all personal possessions and the proceeds of your estate.

If you’re an unmarried person and HAVE children

If you're unmarried person and have children, your children will receive the proceeds of your entire estate when they reach the age of 18.

If you're an unmarried person with NO children

If you die intestate with no spouse or civil partner and no children, your entire estate will go to your next of kin – in this order:

  • Your parents
  • If your parents are deceased, your estate will go to your siblings
  • If you have no siblings, your estate will go to your grandparents
  • If your grandparents are deceased, your estate will go to uncles and aunts
  • If you have no living relatives and die intestate, your estate will go to the crown.

 It’s crucial to recognise that unmarried partners will never benefit if you die intestate – even if you co habit. The only way to make sure your estate is left to your partner is to get married (or enter a civil partnership) – or to write a will.

  • Last updated: October 2017
  • Updated by: Tom Wilson
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