In the UK, when a person dies without having left a valid legal will, he or she is said to have died intestate. The law sets out the rules which apply in that situation.

This is a simple guide only. There may be exceptions to the general rule which are not set out here. Appropriate professional advice should be taken before acting on any understanding of current English law as set out below.

Married person with children

  • Spouse gets everything up to £250,000* and personal possessions.
  • Anything remaining is divided into two:
     
    • Half to the children at 18 or earlier marriage.
    • Half in trust during spouse's lifetime - he or she gets the income. On spouse's death this half goes to the children.
  • If a child dies before you, leaving children then these children will share the estate equally.

Married person, no children

If there are parents, or full brothers or sisters, nephew or nieces:

  • Spouse gets everything up to £450,000* and personal possessions.
  • Anything remaining is divided into two:

    • Half of this goes to spouse.
    • Half to parents.
  • If no parent is living then it goes to brothers or sisters or their children.

If there are no parents, full brothers or sisters, nephew or nieces:

  • Spouse takes whole estate.

Unmarried person with children

  • Estate goes to children at 18 or earlier marriage.
  • If a child dies before you, leaving children then these children will share the estate equally.

Unmarried person with no children

  • Estate goes to parents.
  • If none, then to full siblings or their children.
  • If none, then to half siblings or their children.
  • If none, then to grandparents.
  • If none, then to full uncles and aunts or their children.
  • If none, then to half-uncles and half-aunts or their children.
  • If there are no parents, siblings (full or half), children of siblings, grandparents, uncles and aunts (full or half), or children of uncles or aunts, estate goes to the Crown.

*Note that these figures have changed over the years. If considering rules in relation to a death which has already occurred, the figure in force at the date of that death must be used. The figures shown apply for deaths on or after 1st February 2009.

For more information on the benefits of making a will contact Redstone Wills directly on 0845 4506133†

†Will Writing Services provided by Redstone Wills. Windmill Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, TN38 9BY.
Calls to Redstone will be recorded for customer service and training purposes.