What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will?

It is estimated that two thirds of people die without making a Will. The legal term for this is “intestate”.

People often assume that there is no need to make a Will. They believe that their assets will merely pass to those closest to them.  However, this is not always the case.

What you need to know about the intestacy rules

The law says that the deceased’s estate will pass in accordance with the intestacy rules, if:

  • A Will is not left; or
  • For some reason a Will is found but proves to be invalid

Intestacy rules set out who is entitled to inherit from the estate.

Who is entitled to my estate under the intestacy rules?

If you are married or in a registered civil partnership, the first person entitled is your spouse or civil partner.  However they may not be entitled to everything.  This depends on the amount in the estate. 

The intestacy rules say that spouses/ civil partners are entitled to:

  • All of the deceased’s personal belongings
  • A statutory legacy of £450,000
  • A life interest in only half of any remainder

If you have no children but do have parents and siblings who survive you, they will be entitled to:

  • The other half immediately
  • The half held in trust on the death of the surviving spouse/civil partner

If you have are married or in a registered civil partnership with children, then your spouse/civil partner is entitled to:

  • All of your personal belongings
  • A statutory legacy of £250,000
  • A life interest in half of the remainder

The children are entitled to the other half (at 18), and the half held in trust on the surviving spouse’s/ civil partner’s death.

What about couples who just live together?

The intestacy rules do not take into account couples who just live together, no matter how long they have been together for.

How is the estate administered?

If someone dies without a Will, a Grant of Letters of Administration is applied for, in order to administer the estate.  The person or people entitled to make the application are normally the closest relatives to the deceased.  Again, the intestacy rules confirm who this would be.

What is the consequence of me not having a Will?

If you don’t have a Will, it is possible that:

  • You don’t manage to look after and protect the people you want to
  • The people who end up dealing with your estate either don’t want the job, or aren’t up to it

It is therefore vital that you have a Will in place, however basic, to avoid uncertainty, confusion and delay after your death.

Getting in touch

To learn more about how we can help you with your Will, please contact David Endicott on 01295 204005 or email dendicott@se-law.co.uk