Dying without leaving a Will (intestate) - Who gets what?
Written by Mary-Jane
If you die without leaving a valid will then the law decides who gets what. Here is a rough guide to what would happen under the intestacy rules. This does not constitute legal advice, simply a general overview. If in doubt you should consult a solicitor.
All jointly held assets will automatically pass to the survivor - unless the jointly owned property (normally a house) is held as ‘Tenants in Common’ by the parties, rather than ‘Joint Tenants’. If held as ‘Tenants in Common’ it will be your share which would then fall within the rules of intestacy.
(If you decide to hold the property as tenants- in- common, then each owner has a distinct share in the property. If there are two owners this will automatically be half each, if three a third each, and so on, unless otherwise stated. The ‘otherwise stated’ is where the share amount is actually set out. For instance, 2 people who own a house as tenants-in-common can have their individual shares set at say, 80% and 20% respectively).
If you have a lawful spouse (i.e. you are legally married), but you have no children or other surviving blood relatives
Your spouse will get everything.
If you have a lawful spouse, plus children
If your estate is worth less than £125,000 then your spouse gets everything. If your estate is worth more than £125,000 then your spouse would get £125,000 and a life interest (i.e. the right to take interest on the remainder, but not the capital itself) in half of anything over this sum. Your children (when aged 18) would share half the sum over £125,000 and be entitled to the other half on the death of your spouse. Should any of your children die before you then their share(s) will be distributed amongst your remaining children, or if they leave children themselves, then their children would be entitled to take their parent’s share.
If you have a lawful spouse, no children, but do have surviving blood relatives
If your estate is worth less than £200,000 then your spouse gets everything, plus personal possessions. If your estate is worth more than £200,000 then your spouse would get £200,000 plus half the balance. The remaining half goes to the other relatives in this order of priority - parents; brothers/sisters or their children; half brothers/sisters or their children.
If you are not lawfully married, but have had children
Your estate will be shared between the children. Should they die before you then your remaining children take that share, or if they leave children themselves, their children would take their share.
If you are not lawfully married, have no children, but surviving relatives
Your estate will be shared equally amongst them in this order of priority - parents; brothers/sisters; half-blood brothers/sisters; grandparents; aunts/uncles; half-blood aunts/uncles. If any of these have predeceased you, but have living children then the children will take their parent's share.
If you are not lawfully married, and have no other relatives
Your estate will go the Crown, or to the Duchy of Lancaster, or the Duke of Cornwall.
It should be noted that these rules on intestacy do not recognise "common law" partners, and that "children" includes natural, adopted and illegitimate children, but excludes step-children. Civil Partnerships adopt the same rules on intestacy as married couples i.e. the surviving partner will inherit as if a spouse.