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Posted 7 September 2018
by Martin Laver

Who Can Inherit When There Isn’t a Will?

Bench overlooking the lake

When someone dies intestate, it means that the deceased died without a will, or a will was revoked by an action such as getting married, or physically destroying the will, or the will was invalid.

The intestacy rules apply the same way to spouses and civil partners. They also apply to same sex married couples after 13 March 2014.  Where a marriage or civil partnership has been dissolved by a legally recognised decree or there is an ongoing judicial separation, the surviving spouse or civil partner of an individual who has died has no right to inherit under the rules of intestacy.

Co-habitants who were not the spouse or civil partner of the deceased has no entitlement under the intestacy rules however, they may be able to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

We set out the provisions below.  There are two main variables; whether there is a surviving spouse and whether there are children of the deceased.  Thereafter, there is a clear order in which family members can inherit an estate.

Where the deceased leaves a surviving spouse or civil partner

If the deceased (“the intestate”) has any surviving children or other descendants:

  • the spouse will receive all personal chattels;
  • A Statutory legacy of £250,000 (the first £250,000 of the estate) free of tax, costs and plus interest from date of death at the Bank of England base rate.
  • Half of the residuary estate absolutely.
  • The intestate’s surviving children (or other descendants) receive the remaining half of the residuary of the estate absolutely on the statutory trusts.

Where the deceased does not leave a surviving spouse or civil partner but leaves children, parents and/or siblings

If the intestate has surviving children the children will inherit the entirety of the estate on “statutory trusts”.

The statutory trusts is a fixed type of trust provision set up by the Administration of Estates Act 1925 and stipulates the terms on which beneficiaries of the trust take, in a similar way as is provided in a will.

OR

The intestate leaves surviving parent(s), the parents inherit the residuary estate in equal shares.

OR

the intestate leaves surviving siblings(or surviving issue of siblings who predeceased the intestate) the siblings and children of the siblings who died in the intestate’s lifetime receive the residuary estate on the statutory trusts.

OR

if the intestate leaves surviving half-siblings(and surviving children of a half-sibling who predeceased the intestate), they will receive the residuary estate on the statutory trusts.

OR

if the intestate leaves surviving grandparents, they will receive the residuary estate in equal shares.

OR

if the intestate leaves surviving aunts and uncles(or the children of aunts or uncles who predeceased the intestate), they will receive the residuary estate on statutory trusts.

OR

If the intestate leaves surviving half-aunts and/or half-uncles(or the children of half-aunts or half-uncles who predeceased the intestate) will also inherit under the intestacy rules if there are no other family relatives.

OR

Finally, if the deceased leaves no surviving relatives the estate will go to the Crown (or to one of the Duchies by what is known as Bona Vacantia.

If you require any advice regarding any matter similar to this, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with our experienced team of wills and probate solicitors on 01392 207020.

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About the author

Martin Laver

Partner and Solicitor

Partner in the commercial litigation team specialising in disputed trusts and Wills