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  • Overview

    The rules of intestacy UK

    What is intestacy?

    Intestacy means dying without having made a valid Will. In England and Wales the intestacy rules set out who can inherit the estate if this happens. Contrary to what many believe, in these circumstances an estate cannot just be divided how the family wishes or how the family feels the deceased would have wanted – instead the intestacy rules apply. These rules do not include unmarried partners or step children. In fact, intestacy provisions not only mean your assets may not pass to those you wish to receive them, they can also potentially be Inheritance Tax (IHT) inefficient

    Who can inherit under the rules of intestacy?

    It depends on the living relatives of the deceased.

    If there is a surviving spouse or civil partner and no children, they will inherit the entire estate.

    If there is a surviving spouse/civil partner and children, the spouse/civil partner receives the first £270,000 together with the personal possessions.  Any remaining estate is divided so that the spouse/civil partner receives 50% and the children receive the remaining 50% equally between them.

    If there are children but no surviving spouse/civil partner, the children inherit the entire estate in equal shares.  If any children have predeceased, their children (i.e. grandchildren) will inherit their share of the estate.

    If there is no surviving spouse and no children then the estate moves down the family tree to include parents, grandparents, brother and sisters, nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins.

    Who inherits money if no one will?

    If the entire list of family members set out by law is exhausted then the estate will pass to the Crown.  This is known as bona vacantia.

    Can intestacy rules be challenged?

    Yes, certain categories of people can make a claim against the estate if they feel they have not been adequately provided for.  This is a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.  Those who can make a claim include a spouse or civil partner, a child, someone who was treated as a child of the deceased (e.g. step-children) and someone who immediately before death was being maintained either wholly or partly by the deceased.  This could include a long term partner.  More information about this can be found here on our Inheritance Act Claims page,

    What happens if members of the same family all die at the same time without leaving Wills?

    In this situation, the order of death has to be determined. If the order of deaths is unknown the law states that the eldest person is deemed to have died first.  Each estate is then looked at separately taking into account the order of deaths to determine who will inherit under the intestacy rules.

    An example would be that a father, mother and child all die in an accident.  The father is eldest and is deemed to have died first, then the mother and finally the child.  We take the father’s estate first, he left a surviving spouse but as she failed to survive for 28 days is deemed to have died before him.  He left a child but they failed to attain the age of 18 and therefore don’t benefit from the estate.  Therefore the wider family tree is investigated as set out above.  Then the mother’s estate and finally the child’s estate would be investigated in the same way.

    What happens if there is no knowledge of surviving relatives?

    In this instance, we would recommend instructing genealogists to investigate the family tree.  They will check the birth, deaths and marriage records of the deceased and their family tree to try to locate any living relatives.   If no relatives are found the estate will pass to the crown.

    Our expert probate and contentious probate lawyers specialise in wills and trusts.  Our leading team has the technical expertise so that you can have peace of mind.

    We understand what it means to lose someone and the support and sensitivity which is needed when it comes to the probate process. This is why we excel in offering sound and straight-forward probate advice to our clients.

    Dealing with someone's estate can vary enormously, so ensuring that you get the right type of support and probate advice is vital in making the process easier to manage. It depends on the complexity of the will and estate and how much work you want to do or have time to do yourself. 

    If you are dealing with probate you will need to assess the intricacy of the estate, your role in administering it and the type of support you need. We have helped generations of executors understand and navigate the process with our team’s expert probate advice.

    More about the team

    We are a team of 11 specialist probate lawyers – one of the largest and most experienced in the South East, which means your matter will be dealt with effectively, efficiently and there will always be a member of the team available to help.

    As a full-service law firm we can draw on our years of expertise to help administer even the most complex estates to provide our clients with peace of mind.  

    Our accreditations include:

    • Most of our team who supervise and manage the preparation of wills are members of The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). It has published a Code for Will Preparation in England and Wales and as a firm, we adhere to this code in relation to work we do in connection with wills in this jurisdiction.  We are independent and are not part of any other company or group.  You can view the code on their website: www.step.org/ or we can send you a copy on request.
    • Band 1 in Chambers HNW and The Legal 500
    • Listed as one of the top law firms by ePrivateClient
    • Kent Business Legal Sector Review 2021 – scored us as number 1 for private client quoting “ TSP leads the pack for Private Client once again”
    • Lexcel - The practice is accredited by Lexcel for our excellence in legal practice management
    • All of our partners are also listed as Citywealth leaders.

     

  • Latest Updates

    Loose talk leads to litigation: Higgins v. Morgan and others [2021] and the benefits of leaving a will.

    Romi Patel in our Private Client team examines the recent ruling in a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975, where the deceased had died intestate.

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I would like to receive newsletters, event invitations and publications from Thomson Snell & Passmore by email on the following topics (tick all those that apply) and consent for my data to be processed for this purpose.

We respect your privacy and want news to be relevant. To either, click here or update your preferences by emailing us at info@ts-p.co.uk. Your personal data shall be treated in accordance with our & .

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By submitting an enquiry through 'get in touch' your data will only be used to contact you regarding your enquiry. If you would like to receive newsletters from Thomson Snell & Passmore please use the separate form below.

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