Intestacy Rules: Who will inherit my estate if I don’t have a will?

Rachel Griffiths, Chartered Legal Executive at Hegarty Solicitors
↑ Rachel Griffiths, Chartered Legal Executive at Hegarty Solicitors

The intestacy provisions are the rules that must be followed when distributing a person’s estate if a person dies without leaving a valid will. Rachel Griffiths, Chartered Legal Executive at Hegarty Solicitors outlines the intestacy rules and what happens when someone dies without leaving a will.

Married or civil partners can only inherit if the partnership is still valid at the time of death, and if the marriage or civil partnership had been legally ended, they would be unable to inherit under the rules of intestacy.

Cohabiting partners who are neither married nor in a civil partnership cannot inherit under the intestacy rules, but partners who separated informally but are still legally married or in a civil partnership may still benefit. It is therefore important, if you have informally separated from your partner, that you have a valid will in place to ensure your estate is distributed according to your wishes.

If there are children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren left by the deceased, and the estate is in excess of £270,000, the spouse/civil partner will inherit:

  • All personal property and belongings of the deceased
  • The first £270,000 of the estate
  • Half of the estate that remains

If there are no children, grandchildren, or great- grandchildren, the partner inherits:

  • All personal property and belongings of the deceased
  • The whole estate with interest from the date of death

If the deceased has no surviving spouse/civil partner, the children inherit the whole estate (in equal shares if more than one). If a child has predeceased you, then their own children (i.e. your grandchildren) will inherit their deceased parent’s share.

However, if there is a surviving spouse/ civil partner, any children will only inherit if the estate is valued in excess of £270,000 (subject to those assets passing to the spouse/civil partner as set out above).

Adopted children, including stepchildren who have been legally adopted, have rights to inherit under the rules of intestacy but otherwise the child must be the biological child of the deceased to benefit.

Children will receive their share of the inheritance when they reach the age of 18. Until that point, Trustees manage their inheritance on their behalf.

As mentioned above, a grandchild or great- grandchild cannot inherit from an estate under the rules of intestacy unless their parent or grandparent has died previously or before they reach the age of 18. If one of these was the case, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren inherit equal shares of the share that their parent or grandparent would have been entitled to.

Parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews of the deceased may still inherit under the rules
of intestacy, but this depends on various circumstances.

  • Whether there is a surviving partner
  • Whether there are children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren
  • Regarding nieces and nephews, whether the parent directly related to the deceased, had also died

The order of priority for other close relatives who may be able to inherit should none of the above be applicable is; grandparents, then uncles and aunts (cousins if they have predeceased you), half- uncles and half-aunts (half-cousins if they have predeceased you).


  • Unmarried partners
  • Couples not in a civil partnership
  • Relations by marriage
  • Friends
  • Carers
  • Charities

When someone dies without a will, it can be complicated to manage their affairs and estate.
Your estate may not pass in the way that you want, or may pass to beneficiaries that you do
not wish to benefit. For these reasons, we always recommend making a will.

If you are thinking of writing your will or if you have lost a loved one who did not leave a will, we can help you navigate the intestacy provisions and ensure that everything is sorted out legally and efficiently.

If you have any further questions about wills or intestacy rules, please get in touch with the Hegarty Solicitors team today and see how we can help you, call 01733 346 333, email or visit

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