• February 27, 2024
 The rules of intestacy

The rules of intestacy

The question of “Who inherits when there is no valid will?” is one we frequently get asked.

Articles on the rules of intestacy always generate interest. Whether it is people wanting to understand more about them and the potential impact on their own lives, or as part of their professional role, it’s a subject seemingly still shrouded in a little mystery.

Intestacy is when someone dies without a valid will being in place. The rules of intestacy are effectively a pre-defined order of who is entitled to inherit. The rules also cover instances of partial intestacy where a valid will does not deal with all the deceased’s estate.

And it’s not just from those working in the Private Client world, either. In a video published earlier this year on the Today’s Wills and Probate website on the topic, we were struck by the engagement levels from other areas of law outside of Probate, such as Conveyancing and Family Law. Whilst it’s perhaps natural to consider it as just a probate-related matter, actually the rules of intestacy can have an impact in these other worlds, too.

It’s worth remembering that the term ‘blended family’ is not recognised under the rules of intestacy. Whilst fully adopted children are recognised, foster children and stepchildren are not (unless they have been adopted in by their stepparent).

Perhaps most infamously, the rules make no allowance for cohabiting couples who are not married or in a civil partnership i.e. often (and incorrectly) referred to as “Common Law spouse”. This can turn out to be particularly troublesome, given that the cohabiting couple is the fastest growing living arrangement in England and Wales.

In short, the rules of intestacy can be something of a legal minefield and that’s why we created our Rules of Intestacy flowchart which we hope you will find useful.

If you require any further assistance around the rules of intestacy please view our dedicated web page on the topic or just get in contact as we’d be happy to 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