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When a person dies without a will, this is known as ‘dying intestate’. In some instances, sorting out who inherits their estate is simple enough and it will pass on to the next of kin under certain criteria, known as ‘intestacy rules’.

However, for others without any known immediate family, administration is more complicated. In this case, the estate may pass to the Crown. HM Treasury would be responsible for administration in these cases.


What Are the Intestacy Rules?

The rules outline intestate succession, stating:

  • Partners can only inherit under the rules of intestacy if they were married or in a civil partnership at the time of death. If divorced, you cannot inherit under the rules of intestacy, but you can if you had separated informally.
  • Cohabitating partners, who were not married or in a civil partnership, cannot inherit, even if deemed ‘common-law partners’.
  • If there are surviving children, grandchildren or great grandchildren and the estate is valued at £270,000 or more, the partner will inherit all personal property, the first £270,000 of the estate and half the remaining estate. If there are no surviving children, grandchildren or great grandchildren, the partner will receive it all.
  • Depending on how a joint property was owned at the time of death will dictate inheritance. Different ways of holding the property, lead to different results, so it is always best to seek professional advice.
  • If a couple has a joint back account, the surviving partner inherits the whole of the money.
  • In the case there is no surviving married or civil partner, children of the intestate will inherit the whole estate. If there is more than one child, the estate will be divided equally. If the child is underage, they will receive the inheritance when they reach the age of 18 or marry/form a civil partnership under this age.
  • A grandchild cannot inherit under intestate unless their parent or grandparent has died before the intestate person.
  • Parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews may inherit under the rules of intestacy if there is no surviving partner, children, grandchildren or great grandchildren.
  • Relations by marriage have no right to inherit.

Read more: 5 Common Myths Associated with Dying Without a Will (Intestate)


What Happens if no Relatives Can Be Found?

If no relatives can be found, the estate will pass to the Crown. A process known as ‘bona vacantia’ or ‘ownerless goods’. The Treasury Solicitor then resumes control. The estate details will be stored on the Unclaimed Estates List for a number of years to allow for any distant relatives to reveal themselves and claim their estate share.

There are numerous organisations known as ‘heir hunters’ who make it their job to find beneficiaries of intestate estates, charging a small fee for their services in securing the inheritance.


How Do I Find Out if I am Entitled?

If you have a relative who has died intestate and you believe you could be owed money, take a look at the latest Unclaimed Estates List from the Treasury Solicitor (updated 29th March 2021).

This list holds details of 7,423 intestate estates. This includes estates which have recently been referred, but not yet administered, and historic cases which have been administered but not yet been claimed within the time limits for doing so.

If you make a claim on a bona vacantia estate within 12 years from the date of its administration was completed, you will receive your share as well as interest. A claim can be made up to 30 years from the date of death, but no interest will be paid after year 12.


Need Inheritance Claims Advice?

The best ways to avoid any difficulties with intestacy for your estate is to make a Will.

If you would like to make a will or need  inheritance claims advice, our team of friendly wills and probate solicitors can help. Get in touch today to discover your rights and to discuss your case.


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