UK: The Intestacy Rules

Last Updated: 9 July 2012
Article by Fay Copeland
  • The intestacy rules are statutory rules which determine who is entitled to an individual's property if that individual ("the deceased") dies 'intestate', meaning:

    • Without having a valid Will in place (known as total intestacy); or
    • Without having disposed of their entire estate by Will (known as partial intestacy).

  • Below is a table setting out the order of entitlement to the "estate" (what remains after the deceased's funeral costs, estate administration expenses and any debts and inheritance tax have all been paid) under the intestacy rules (for deaths after 1 February 2009).

Individual dies intestate leaving a surviving spouse or civil partner and...

Person(s) entitled to the estate

Person(s) entitled to a Grant of Representation1

...children and an estate of less than £250,000

Spouse/civil partner receives everything

Spouse/civil partner

...children and an estate of more than £250,000

Spouse/civil partner receives all personal possessions, £250,000 and a "life interest"2 in one half of the remainder of the estate (with this half then passing to the children on the spouse's death, or at age 18 if later). The children receive the remaining half of the estate in equal shares at age 18.

Spouse/civil partner then any adult children of the deceased

...no children and an estate of less than £450,000

Spouse/civil partner receives everything

Spouse/civil partner

...no children and an estate of more than £450,000

Spouse/civil partner receives all personal possessions, £450,000 and one half of the remainder of the estate. Any surviving parents receive the other half of the estate in equal shares. If the deceased's parents are dead, that half of the estate is divided equally between the deceased's surviving siblings.

Spouse/civil partner

...no children, parents or siblings

Spouse/civil partner receives everything

Spouse/civil partner



Individual dies intestate leaving no surviving spouse or civil partner...

Person(s) entitled to the estate

Person(s) entitled to a Grant of Representation

...but surviving children

Children receive everything in equal shares at age 18

Any adult children of the deceased

...or children but both parents

Parents receive everything in equal shares

Either or both parents

...or children but one parent

Parent receives everything

Parent

...or children or parents but siblings (or the surviving children of such siblings as have died before the deceased)

Siblings receive everything in equal shares, and if they have died before the deceased then their children receive equally the share their parent would have received.3

Siblings and the children of any siblings who died before the deceased.

...or children, parents, siblings or nieces and nephews but half siblings (or the surviving children of such half siblings as have died before the deceased)

Half siblings receive everything in equal shares, and if they have died before the deceased then their children receive equally the share their parent would have received.

Half-siblings and the children of any half-siblings who died before the deceased.

...or children, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, half siblings or their children, but surviving grandparents

Grandparents receive everything in equal shares

Either or both grandparents

...or children, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, half siblings or their children or grandparents, but surviving aunts and uncles (or the children of such aunts and uncles as have died before the deceased)

Aunts and uncles receive everything in equal shares and if they have died before the deceased then their children receive equally the share their parent would have received.

Aunts and uncles and the children of any aunt or uncle who died before the deceased.

...or children, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, half siblings or their children, grandparents or aunts and uncles but surviving half aunts and uncles (or the children of such half aunts and uncles as have died before the deceased

Half aunts and uncles receive everything in equal shares and if they have died before the deceased, then their children receive equally the share their parent would have received.

Half aunts and uncles and the children of any half aunt or uncle who died before the deceased.

No blood relation within the criteria set out above

The estate goes to the Crown as "bona vacantia"

Treasury solicitor

What can we offer?

  • The intestacy rules are inflexible and do not take individual circumstances into account. They impose constraints which could result in your loved ones receiving less than you intend after your death and/or your children inheriting significant sums of money at an early age (18). They may also result in your estate unnecessarily paying more inheritance tax. These issues were most recently demonstrated in the case of Wright v Gater.
  • You can avoid these problems by making a Will.

Footnotes

1. Where there is a life interest or any of the beneficiaries are minors, there must be at least two administrators.

2. A life interest gives the spouse the right to have the use of and receive any income from the half share of the deceased's estate for his or her lifetime.

3. All references to the children of relatives who die before the deceased inheriting in substitution apply only if the relative had been alive at some point during the deceased's lifetime.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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