What happens to my estate if I do not leave a Will?
When a person passes away without a Will or if they had a Will that was invalid, they are considered to die ‘intestate’.
If you pass away without a valid Will, what happens to your estate will depend on the Intestacy Rules (the Rules). The Rules follow an order of succession with regard to who will benefit from the estate first.
Below we have listed the order of succession according to the Rules for England and Wales.
The first person who will benefit from the estate is a surviving spouse or civil partner. If your estate is worth less than £270,000 your spouse* will receive the whole estate.
Thereafter a variety of outcomes exist:
If your estate is worth more than £270,000 and you do not have children, your spouse or civil partner will inherit your entire estate.
If your estate is worth more than £270,000 and you do have children, your spouse will receive the first £270,000 and all your personal belongings. The remaining amount will be split equally, with half going to your spouse and the other half being divided equally between your children. If any children have predeceased you, then their share will pass to any children that they have left behind eg. your grandchildren.
It is worth mentioning that this rule only applies to spouses and civil partners. It does not apply if you are not married or in a civil partnership. Unmarried parties cannot inherit under the Rules.
If you are separated and not yet divorced, your spouse or civil partner can still inherit under the Rules. However, their right under the Rules is revoked as soon as you are divorced or the civil partnership is dissolved.
2, Children and direct descendants
If you no longer have a spouse, or if you were never married or in a civil partnership, the next to inherit under the Rules will be any children.
Your estate will be divided equally between them and if any child had predeceased you, their share will go to any children they leave behind eg. your grandchildren.
Whilst adopted children have the same rights as natural children, stepchildren are not considered and so would not inherit under the Rules
Although many people will outlive their parents, if you did not have a spouse or children, your parents will inherit 50% of your estate each.
If your parents have predeceased you, the next in line to inherit your estate will be any siblings, who would receive the estate in equal share. As with children, if your siblings have predeceased you, their share will go to any children that they leave behind eg. your nieces and nephews.
Following these rules, should a beneficiary still not be found, the list will continue as follows:
5, Half brothers and sisters
7, Aunts and uncles
You can see, without making a Will your estate is left in the hands of fate, or rather, the government! In the worst case it could go to a person you really would not like to benefit from your estate, such as a disowned child, separated spouse or estranged parent.
Equally, a much-loved partner could also end up with nothing if you are not married or in a civil partnership, or step-children will not be considered at all.
It is always best to protect your family and your estate by making a Will and making your wishes clear.
If you would like to speak to one of our Wills and Probate experts ring us on 0203 488 3997 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.