What happens if a person dies intestate?


04 June, 2015

If a person dies without making a Will (known as dying intestate) then the process of dividing their estate could become more complicated than if they had set their wishes out in a Last Will and Testament.

As it is not legally understood how they wanted their estate to be left, it comes down to a process of working out who is entitled to what. This is based on familial relationship to the deceased and is considered the fairest way to divide up an estate although, of course, does not take into account what the deceased may have wanted, had they made a Will.

What happens if the deceased was married or in a civil partnership?

If the deceased was married or in a civil partnership at the time of their death, the process is simplified somewhat. If they did not leave any children, their spouse or civil partner will receive all possessions and assets.

If they did leave children, then the spouse or civil partner receives all personal chattels (possessions), the first £250,000, any interest accrued from the date of death and half of the residue. The children will receive the other half of the residue, evenly divided between them, when they turn 18.

What if the deceased was not married or in a civil partnership?

If the deceased was unmarried or not in a civil partnership at the time of their death then the first thing to bear in mind is that unmarried partners will not receive anything, even if they were living with or in a long term relationship with the deceased. This highlights the importance of making a will if you want to ensure your loved ones receive all or part of your estate after your death.

If the deceased had any children or grandchildren, the estate is divided evenly between the surviving children. Any grandchildren whose parents have passed away will receive their parent's share.

If there were no children, then other family are looked into. If the deceased had any surviving parents, the estate would be divided between them evenly. If not, the rest of their family are looked at in the following order:

  • Full siblings (or their children)
  • Half siblings (or their children)
  • Grandparents
  • Full aunts or uncles (or their children)
  • Half aunts or uncles (or their children)

So if, for instance, the deceased had no surviving parents and no full siblings it would be asked if they had any half siblings. If they did, then the estate would be divided evenly between them or, in the event that they had passed away, their children. If there were no half siblings, this process would be continued along the list until an heir was found. If every possibility is investigated and there are no heirs (if the deceased had no surviving family at all), the estate is then passed to the Crown.

The importance of making a Will

Making a Will is the only means you have of controlling what happens to your estate in the event of your death.

You may, for instance wish to leave your estate to your partner, or wish to leave gifts for people who aren't related to you by blood. There may be particular possessions that you want to bequeath to people (jewellery or collectables, for example) or you could wish to leave some or all of your estate to a charitable cause. You may even want to make sure that a particular person doesn't inherit any of your estate at all.

However you wish to divide up your estate, making a Will ensures your wishes are carried out to the letter. At Forbes Solicitors, our specialist team of Wills, Probate, Tax & Trusts solicitors will be able to help and advise you in putting together a Last Will and Testament that bequeaths your estate in the way you want, safeguarding the financial security of those you care about most. You can call us on 0800 975 2463 or email us to make an enquiry.


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