If we die without a will, we are deemed to have died ‘intestate’. In those circumstances, the law decides who gets what, and who is entitled to deal with probate. Our articles cover everything from the current intestacy rules, through to who gets what in the list of priority. But, if you don’t find what you’re looking for, do reach out to our expert wills and probate solicitors with your intestacy rules query.





Intestacy FAQs

When someone dies without leaving a valid Will in England & Wales, their estate (property, money, belongings, etc) must be distributed in accordance to the rules of intestacy.

When someone dies intestate, their estate is usually administered by the next of kin, who must stick to intestacy rules to determine who benefits from the estate.

It will depend on how the house is owned:

If the deceased owned the house in their sole name then the rules of intestacy will apply

If the deceased owned the house with someone else as Tenants in Common, the rules of intestacy also apply.

If the deceased owned the house with someone else as Joint Tenants, the house will pass automatically to the surviving joint tenant.

If there’s a spouse/civil partner and children

The spouse/civil partner will receive everything up to the value of £250,000, and the deceased’s personal items

Anything over £250,000 is divided in two. Half goes to the children (at 18), and the other half is added to the spouse/civil partner’s inheritance.

If there’s a spouse/civil partner but no children

The spouse/civil partner receives everything

If there are children but no spouse/civil partner

The children receive everything equally once they turn 18. Adopted children can inherit but stepchildren can’t.

No partners are considered unless they were married to or in a civil partnership with the deceased

If there’s no spouse/civil partner and no children

The estate goes to the deceased’s parents. If their parents are dead, the order is the following:

  1. Brothers and sisters (or nieces and nephews if a sibling died before the deceased);
  2. Grandparents
  3. Uncles and aunts (or cousins if an uncle or aunt has died before the deceased).

If there are no surviving relatives

The estate goes to the Crown.

Financial dependents who don’t inherit under the intestacy rules will have to claim under the Inheritance Act 1975.

Intestacy rules don’t provide inheritance for the following:

  • Unmarried partners
  • Couples not in a civil partnership
  • Relations by marriage (e.g. stepchildren)
  • Close friends
  • Carers
  • Charities

If you think that these rules will affect how your estate is distributed and that loved ones would be overlooked, you should make sure you a have a Will in place.

You will need to find out first whether a will has been made and if so, where it is.

You can ask the deceased’s solicitors, banks, search their home or carry out an online search via Certainty (The National Will Register).

If you can’t find a will, the deceased probably didn’t make one and their estate will be administered by the next of kin in accordance to the rules of intestacy.

If there’s no will, then the next of kin can apply to become the administrator of the estate. They will apply for “Letters of Administration”.

It is normally the closest living relative (spouse/civil partner followed by any children 18 or over, including legally adopted children but not step-children). You can find more information about the next of kin here Intestacy – who inherits if someone dies without a will? – GOV.UK (

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