• December 5, 2023
 The Rules of Intestacy: What happens if someone dies without a valid will in England or Wales?

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.

Anglia Research Services


Now in our sixth decade, we are a full-service probate genealogy firm, supporting probate practitioners with the estate administration process. We believe that it is our staff that sets up apart; we employ more accredited genealogists, legally qualified and independently regulated staff than any other UK probate research firm. The calibre of our team means that we find relatives fast and, crucially, we do not cut corners. Our dedicated team of genealogists liaise with a global network of agents to connect with missing beneficiaries, lost or unknown heirs, and the rightful owners of unclaimed assets. Established in 1979, Anglia Research has traced thousands of missing heirs in the UK and around the world. Founder Peter Turvey is an active member of the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA), which is the only provider of genealogical accreditation in England and Wales and where knowledge and professionalism are required and tested. Our industry-leading services have been featured on popular TV programmes, including the BBC’s "Who Do You Think You Are?" and "A House Through Time". The firm is headquartered in Ipswich, Suffolk with further offices in the UK and throughout the world. Key Services: Main Contact Details: Key Contact