Unsure if you need to leave a Will? A guide to intestacy laws in the UK


While the writing of a Will is an occasion which can allow many people to feel secure in the futures of their partners and children, according to the Law Society, as many as 1 in 3 people die without leaving a Will.

Of course, there are instances where this is unavoidable, such as death from an accident or sudden illness, it highlights that many people are dying in a state of intestacy, which can leave your family inheriting less than you had set aside for them.

What is intestacy?

In simple terms, intestacy is the name for when a person passes away without leaving a valid Will. And, the old formula of dividing up any assets equally (if applicable) to their spouse, children etc is one of the intestacy rules in place within UK law. Sound reassuring? It may not be, as probate solicitors in Emsworth will often observe families of the deceased inheriting less than they would have if a valid Will have been left.

And, luckily (or unluckily) there is an entire set of intestacy laws which govern what happens to the estate of a deceased person, which will be briefly explored in this article.

Married partners and civil partners

Should you be married or in a civil partnership at the time of your spouse’s death, in accordance with new intestacy rules, which came into effect in February 2020, you are entitled to inherit a maximum of £270,000 from your spouse’s estate.

However, as probate solicitors near Emsworth will tell you, the lack of a Will in relation to common-law partners or formally separate spouses can prove problematic. An ex-spouse whom you are formally separated from can still legally inherit under the rules of intestacy. But, should you be cohabiting with your long-term partner at the time of your death, they are not legally entitled to inherit anything under intestacy rules. So, book an appointment with probate solicitors from Emsworth to ensure that this does not happen!


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In the event that the child has a surviving parent, the child(ren) will only receive assets through intestacy if their deceased parents’ estate is valued at over £270,00 and will be divided equally.

If you have 2 children with your spouse, and their estate is worth £280,000 for example, each child will inherit £5,000.

However, if both parents have passed away, then the child of the deceased will inherit the entire estate, provided it is over a certain value. And, as before, if there is more than one child, it will be divided equally.

Other relatives

In relation to other relatives, there is a priority of deserving relatives who can inherit. If there is no living spouse, children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, then siblings can inherit the estate.

People who cannot inherit the estate through intestacy include unmarried partners or those not in a civil partnership, relations through marriage or close friends. And, as unfair as it may seem, carers cannot inherit assets through intestacy either.

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