What Happens if You Die Without a Will – Rules of Intestacy

Over 20 million people in the UK have a Will. However, there are still some who haven’t yet got around to making one.

So, a common question is “what happens if you die without a Will?” or, more accurately, “what do I do if my partner/ Mum/ Dad/ child dies without a Will?”.

If you (or a loved one) dies without leaving a valid Will, then you are referred to as having died intestate. This means that your estate must be shared according to the rules of intestacy.

Your estate is made up of:

  • Money- both cash and money in your bank or building society accounts. This could include money paid out on a life insurance policy.
  • Money owed to you
  • Property and land, for example, your home
  • Personal possessions, for example, your car, jewellery, paintings etc.
  • Shares
  • Digital assets such as digital devices and the data stored on them. You can find out more about digital assets after death here.

As in the case of anyone dying, you cannot touch their estate until it has been administered. The exception is where accounts, property etc. are held in joint names.

Many joint assets will transfer automatically to the surviving co-owner. If you die without a Will then your loved one’s will need to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration, which gives them the legal authority to administer your estate.

The administrator granted the legal authority to deal with an estate must:

  1. Collect your assets;
  2. Pay debts and claims against you as well as any expenses;
  3. Distribute the remainder of your estate

If someone does not leave a legally valid Will, then this process becomes more complex.  For example, there can be arguments about who should be the administrator and how the estate is distributed.  It also takes months, and sometimes years, to administer an estate where no valid Will has been left.

It is recommended that you make a Will so that you know your wishes will be respected and your loved ones looked after. If your partner or one of your family die without leaving a valid Will then we highly recommend that you talk to an experienced solicitor.

Kathryn Caple, Head of Wills and Probate at Else, is sensitive to the needs of grieving family members.  She understands this is a very difficult time for the family and works to reassure those grieving over their loss.  Kathryn has considerable experience in dealing with estates without a valid Will. You are invited to contact her confidentially on 01283 526230 or at kathryn.caple@elselaw.co.uk.

In this article, we will cover:

  • Key Takeaway Points
  • What Happens if There is no Valid Will
  • Who Can Apply for Letters of Administration
  • What are the Rules of Intestacy
  • Why Else?
Key Takeaway Points
  1. If there is no valid Will when someone dies, then a close relative needs to apply for Letters of Administration so that they can become an administrator of the estate. They have no authority to act on the deceased’s estate until this has been legally granted to them.
  2. Only relatives can apply to become an administrator, in a set priority order as given below. Your partner cannot be an administrator or benefit from your estate under the laws of intestacy if you are not married or in a civil partnership.
  3. The rules of intestacy that apply to your estate depend on your domestic circumstances, please see below. Under the laws of intestacy, only close relatives can benefit from your estate. Stepchildren cannot benefit. If you have no surviving close relatives, then your estate goes to the Crown.
  4. It can take months, if not years, to administer an estate without a valid Will. This is due to the complex nature of the intestacy process, the possibility of having to trace distant relatives as well as the number of disagreements that can occur between your relatives and others.
  5. It is highly recommended that if a close relative dies without a valid Will that you consult an experienced solicitor. It is recommended that you and your partner make a Will to avoid the complications that can arise without one.

If you would like to make or update your Will which gives you the peace of mind that your estate will be dealt with according to your wishes, then please contact our Head of Wills and Probate, Kathryn Caple, on 01283 526230 or at kathryn.caple@elselaw.co.uk.

What Happens If There is No Valid Will

It sometimes happens that someone dies without leaving a valid Will.  This is usually because they did not make one. However, it could also be because the Will they had was not properly made (homemade Wills are frequently invalid). There are also problems where valid Wills have not been updated and leave the estate to people who have already died.

If your partner or one of your close relatives dies without leaving a Will, then you need to apply for Letters of Administration (also known as a Grant of Representation). You have no authority to act until this has been granted, for example, you cannot advertise or sell their property or access their bank accounts.

The person awarded the Grant of Representation is called the administrator.

Who Can Apply for Letters of Administration

In order of priority, the below relatives can apply to become an administrator of your estate:

  1. Your spouse or civil partner
  2. One of your children – or their guardian if under 18.
  3. One of your grandchildren
  4. One of your parents
  5. One of your brothers or sisters
  6. One of your nephews or nieces
  7. Another of your relatives

These are the only people capable of inheriting under the laws of intestacy and, if none of are these surviving, then your estate will pass to the Crown, regardless of who else you might have wanted to leave it to.

Once you have been granted Letters of Administration, then you can administer the estate.  However, you are personally exposed, if you do this incorrectly e.g. by missing out entitled relatives.  This is why most people choose to have a solicitor administer it for them.

What are the Rules of Intestacy

The rules of intestacy dictate how the remainder of your estate, after bills and debts have been paid, is divided.  The split depends on your domestic circumstances.

Married with Children

Your spouse gets:

  • Your car and house contents
  • The first £250,000 of your estate plus half of the rest

Your children get:

  • Half of any excess over £250,000 of your estate outright

Note: Separated people are treated under intestacy rules as still being married.  So, if you are separated and don’t want to leave part of your estate to your spouse, then you must have a Will drawn up.

Married with No Children

Your spouse gets everything.

Single, Widowed or Divorced

Everything goes to the first living person (or people) in this priority order:

  • Your children
  • Your parents
  • Your brothers and sisters
  • Your nephews and nieces
  • Your grandparents
  • Your uncles and aunts
  • Your cousins

If none of these are surviving, then it goes to the Crown.

There are numerous complications when dealing with estates without a valid Will.  Else Solicitors can help.

Why Choose Else?

Else is a modern, dynamic and forward-thinking law firm who have the expertise you would expect from a large, traditional law firm.

You will discover that we have an enviable reputation for always going the extra mile and offering a personal, jargon free service.  You are in trusted legal hands and will benefit from our extensive knowledge and experience.  You can be sure of a sympathetic ear.  We will work to make you feel as safe and secure as possible during this distressing time.

If a close relative has died without a Will, then we urge you to call Kathryn Caple, on 01283 526230 or at kathryn.caple@elselaw.co.uk at your earliest opportunity.

Experience the Else difference today!

Share This

Copy Link to Clipboard