What to do if someone dies without a will

If someone dies without making a valid will, they will be intestate. Some people think that their wishes will be applied even though they have no will, but the rules are complex and rarely lead to that outcome.

Our advice is always to make a will to avoid costs, complications and distress to your next of kin after your death. If you die intestate:

  • Your property will be inherited according to the intestacy rules
  • Instead of going to your chosen beneficiaries, it will go to other next of kin in a particular order

Intestacy Rules

If you die without making a will, leaving a surviving spouse or civil partner but no children, parent, brother, sister, or children of a deceased sibling:

  • The whole estate passes to your spouse
  • If your spouse dies within 28 days of you, your estate is distributed as if your spouse had not survived you

If you die without making a will leaving both a spouse/civil partner and children, your estate is distributed as follows:

  • Your spouse/civil partner receives all your house contents and personal effects (including your car) – but this does not include cash or belongings used for business purposes
  • Your spouse/civil partner also receives up to £250,000 from the remainder of your estate
  • If the remainder of your estate – apart from your personal assets – is worth less than £250,000, your spouse/civil partner receives the whole amount
  • If there is more than £250,000, the first £250,000 will go to your spouse/civil partner and the rest of the estate is divided into two equal funds
  • One fund is held on trust to pay income to your spouse/civil partner for their life and then passes to your children
  • The other fund is held on trust for your children

If you die intestate leaving a spouse/civil partner, no children but a parent, brother, sister or children of a deceased sibling, then the rules set out above apply but the £250,000 figure is increased to £450,000 and one half of the rest of the estate above that figure goes to your spouse/civil partner.

If you die without a will (intestate) with no surviving spouse or civil partner, your estate will pass to your children.

If you have no children then your estate will pass in the following order:

  • Your parents, equally if both are alive
  • Your brothers and sisters
  • Your half brothers and sisters
  • Your grandparents, equally if both are alive
  • Your uncles and aunts
  • Your half uncles and aunts
  • The Crown

Nelsons’ team of wills and probate experts can help draft a will to prevent you dying intestate, and can help if a loved one has died without leaving a will.

Find out how Nelsons can help you. Contact our friendly team for a guaranteed fast response.

For advice and support 0800 024 1976