What Happens If Someone Dies Without Leaving A Valid Will?

If someone dies without leaving a valid Will, they are intestate. That means their estate will be distributed to their next of kin in accordance to the default statutory rules which might not be what the deceased wanted. Friends and charities, which the person may have wanted part or all of their estate to pass to, will not receive anything. Dealing with intestacy can be complicated, time consuming and expensive.

At Nelsons, we always advise that you leave a Will so that your wishes are clear and legally valid. It may also prevent distress and arguments between the people that you leave behind.

Intestacy rules

If you die without a Will, your estate will be inherited by your next of kin, depending on who you leave behind and how much your estate is worth.

If on your death, you leave behind a living spouse or civil partner and no children, the spouse or civil partner will inherit your entire estate. No one else will inherit from your estate.

If on your death, you leave behind a living spouse or civil partner and also children or remote descendants (e.g. grandchildren), your estate will be inherited in the following way:

  • Your possessions and a legacy of £270,000 (£250,000 if you died before 6th February 2020) to your surviving spouse or civil partner; and
  • The rest of your estate will be split in half – one half to your spouse or civil partner, the other half to your children equally.
  • If any of your children were to die before you, what would have been their share will be inherited their own children in equal shares.
  • No one else will inherit anything from your estate.

If you don’t have a surviving spouse or civil partner on your death, your entire estate will be inherited by:

  1. Your children in equal shares. If any of them die before you then their own children will inherit their parent’s share. If none of your children or descendants survive you, or you never had any then;
  2. Your parents, but if they both die before you then;
  3. Your full brothers and sisters or their descendants, but if all of them have died before you or you never had any then;
  4. Your half brothers and sisters or their descendants, but if all of them have died before you or you never had any then;
  5. Your grandparents, but if they have all died before you then;
  6. Your full uncles and aunts or their descendants, but if they have all died before you or you never had any then;
  7. Your half uncles and aunts or their descendants, but if they have all died before you or you never had any then;
  8. The Crown.

This will most likely not be the way you want your estate to be distributed after your death. It is vital that you leave a Will to avoid the intestacy rules being applied, especially if:

  • You want to provide for your partner whom you are not married to or are not in a registered civil partnership with;
  • You are married/in a civil partnership and the marriage/civil partnership has automatically revoked a Will you made before the marriage/civil partnership;
  • You are estranged from any of your family;
  • You wish to give part or all of your estate to charity or friends;
  • You do not wish certain members of your family to inherit from your estate for any reason;
  • Your spouse or civil partner has a significant estate already and you are concerned about their Inheritance Tax liability;
  • You want to provide for your step or foster children;
  • You want the people administering your estate to be different to the people inheriting the estate;
  • You want a professional firm, such as  Nelsons, to act as your executors or replacement executors; or
  • You have children under the age of 18 and would like to appoint a guardian in the event that both parents die.

Intestacy rules prior to 6th February 2020

If someone died before 6th February 2020, different intestacy rules apply. If you are dealing with an intestacy where the deceased died before this date, contact us for advice. The rules have changed more than once in the last 10 years, so it is important that you apply the correct rules and distribute the estate accordingly.

Legally valid Will

To make a legally valid Will, it must be signed and witnessed properly by two independent witnesses. Both witnesses must be present when the person making the Will signs and the witnesses must both sign the Will in the presence of the person making the Will.

It is best to see an appropriate solicitor or expert to make sure that your Will is drafted in accordance to your wishes and signed and witnessed properly.

How can Nelsons help?

Vikky Lai is a Paralegal in our expert Wills, Trusts & Probate team.

If you would like any further information in relation to intestacy rules, creating a Will or any related subjects, please contact Vikky or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.