The Rules of Intestacy: What happens if someone dies without a valid will in England or Wales?

The rules of intestacy come into play in when someone passes away intestate (without a valid will). They are effectively a pre-defined order of who is entitled to inherit.

There is no way of altering the priority order of the deceased’s closest family, which is listed below:

  1. Married couples and Civil partners*
  2. Children
  3. Parents
  4. Siblings of whole blood
  5. Siblings of half blood
  6. Grandparents
  7. Uncles or aunts of whole blood
  8. Uncles or aunts of half blood

* The surviving spouse or civil partner is entitled to receive the first £270,000 of assets with the remainder of the estate divided in half – one half will go to the surviving spouse or civil partner, the other half will be divided equally between the children.

Dating back to 1925 and the Administration of Estates Act, the rules do not take into account today’s more blended family dynamics – for example, stepchildren and foster children are not entitled under the rules, though fully adopted children are (including step children who have been adopted by their step parent).

Perhaps most infamously, there is no provision for couples living together who are not married or in a civil partnership i.e. “Common law spouses”. This is ironic, given that the cohabiting couple is the fastest growing living arrangement in England and Wales.

The rules also cover instances of partial intestacy where there was a valid will, but it failed to deal with all of the deceased’s estate.

All things considered, it is a bit of a legal minefield and things can easily get misinterpreted.

Interestingly, Anglia Research encounters the rules of intestacy as part of our daily work – queries around the topic are received everyday – so we are in a good position to assist.

We hope the below video, recorded by Joe Lander, Business Development Manager, Anglia Research, is of some help.

This article was submitted to be published by Anglia Research as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Wills and Probate. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Wills and Probate.

Read more stories

Join over 6,000 wills and probate practitioners – Check back daily for all the latest news, views, insights and best practice and sign up to our e-newsletter to receive our weekly round up every Friday morning. 

You’ll receive the latest updates, analysis, and best practice straight to your inbox.