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/ 03 Feb 2023

Intestacy: What happens if you don’t have a valid Will in 2023?

To follow on from Update Your Wills Week, something many individuals do not consider is what would happen to their assets if they did not have a valid Will in place at the time of their death. Who you would and would not want to benefit is an important consideration on deciding whether to make a Will.

Trainee Solicitor Priya Patel and Partner Claire Martin provide an overview of what happens when you die Intestate below.

Claire Martin


Head of Private Client

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The Rules of Intestacy – who inherits if there is no Will?

The Express recently published an article in respect of this highlighting how the law dictates who would inherit where there is no Will. The Rules of Intestacy are inflexible in which blood relatives will inherit the estate despite whether you would have wanted them to or not.

In today’s world, where it is not unusual for people to divorce, have second families or choose to cohabit rather than enter a civil partnership or marriage, the lack of a Will can result in distant family members inheriting in place of partners, friends or charities who you would select to inherit. If there are no surviving blood relatives, then the estate will pass to the Crown. You may also wish to consider our article on the rights of cohabiting couples when it comes to inheritance as many people don’t realise that there are no automatic rights to inherit from one another.

If you do not leave a Will not only can your estate end up in the hands of relatives that you did not select, but it may be more costly to your estate. The Rules of Intestacy not only sets out which relatives will benefit, but also which of these relatives has authority to manage your estate. The first thing that may be necessary is to employ a firm to search out these relatives, at a cost to your estate.

Challenging the Rules of Intestacy

Any of your close loved ones who are not provided for under the Rules of Intestacy may be left with no option but to make a legal challenge, subject to their eligibility to do so, to the estate on the basis they are not reasonably provided for under the Rules of Intestacy. Legal proceedings can be protracted and costly and if successful could result in the Estate meeting some or all of the costs of the challenge. To make matters worse, in the meantime your loved ones will be left unprovided from your estate pending resolution of the proceedings.

Who benefits in the Rules of Intestacy?

In general terms, if a person were to die in circumstances leaving a surviving spouse or civil partner and/ or children, these persons are prioritised in the Rules of Intestacy. However, this can lead to circumstances that are also not ideal, such as a second spouse/civil partner could be sharing their home with children from a first marriage/civil partnership, any of who could enforce sale of the home at any time.

If someone were to die without a surviving spouse, civil partner or children, the Rules Intestacy then turn to more distant relatives:

  • Grandchildren of the deceased
  • Parents – equally if they are both surviving
  • ‘Whole’ Siblings or nieces and nephews
  • ‘Half’ Siblings or nieces and nephews
  • Grandparents
  • ‘Whole’ Uncles and Aunts or cousins
  • ‘Half’ Uncles and Aunts or cousins

How can Hanne & Co’s Wills & Probate lawyers help you?

If you wish to ensure your estate passes to who you choose, our team of Private Client solicitors are on hand to advise and assist with your Will. Equally if you feel that you have not been provided for reasonably under Rules of Intestacy, or a Will, we will be happy to provide advice specific to you.

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Call us on +44 20 7228 0017