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Intestacy Rules Explained

Updated: Feb 20, 2023

What happens if I die without a will in the UK?

If you live in England or Wales, the order of succession is as follows:

1. Spouse or Civil Partner

If you pass away without leaving a valid will – or intestate – your spouse or civil partner will only obtain a proportion of your estate. Presently, this stands as the first £270,000, plus half of everything above that amount. They could also inherit if you have formally separated, however not if you have divorced or legally ended your civil partnership.

2. Children

If your children survive you, whether they are yours by birth or adoption, and you have not left a will, then the remaining percentage of your estate will be distributed amongst your children. However – and this is key – if your estate is less than £270,000, then your children will receive nothing as all of it will go to your husband/wife or civil partner.

On the other hand, if you don’t have a surviving spouse or civil partner, your children will inherit your estate in its entirety.

3. Children from another relationship and adopted children

All your children are treated as equals under the rules of intestacy. Kids from all relationships and legally adopted children will benefit from equal shares of your estate.

Unfortunately, unless you have legally adopted them, stepchildren will not be entitled to receive anything if there is no will dictating that they shall receive some of your estate – no matter your relationship or how long you cared for them.


When will my children receive their inheritance?

Under the rules of intestacy, your children will only receive their inheritance when they either:

  • Reach the age of 18; or

  • Marry or enter into a civil partnership before they become 18.


Unless your grandchildren and great-grandchildren meet one of the following criteria, they will not receive any of your estate if die intestate.

  • The child’s parent or grandparent passes away before you.

  • The child’s parent is alive when you pass away, but dies before reaching the age of 18 and is not married or in a civil partnership.

If your situation matches either of the above, the grandchildren and great grandchildren will inherit an equal slice of the amount their parent/grandparent would have collected.

Other relatives

Relatives, such as siblings, uncles, and aunts, may inherit some of your estate wherever a number of conditions are met.

No surviving blood relatives

Your estate will be handed to the Crown.

Unfortunately, if you don’t leave a legal will in place when you pass, your estate may not be distributed in the way you wish. Those people you may want to look after will be left without any inheritance.

It is important to have a legal and binding will so you can ensure your estate is distributed as you see fit and your loved ones are taken care of.

This article is for information only and should not be seen as advice or a recommendation to take action. Investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back the original capital invested.

Reeves Independent is not responsible for the content hosted on external sites.

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