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It’s a myth to think that your spouse will automatically inherit if you die and have not written a Will. When a person dies without leaving a valid will, their property (the estate) must be shared out according to certain rules. These are called the rules of intestacy. A person who dies without leaving a will is called an intestate person.

Only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under the rules of intestacy. If someone makes a will but it is not legally valid, the rules of intestacy decide how the estate will be shared out, not the wishes expressed in the will.

Married partners and civil partners.

Married partners or civil partners inherit under the rules of intestacy only if they are actually married or in a civil partnership at the time of death. If you are divorced or if your civil partnership has been legally ended, you can’t inherit under the rules of intestacy.

Partners who separated informally can still inherit under the rules of intestacy. Cohabiting partners (sometimes wrongly called ‘common-law’ partners) who were neither married nor in a civil partnership can’t inherit under the rules of intestacy.

If there are surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren of the person who died and the estate is valued at more than £270,000, the partner will inherit:

  • all the personal property and belongings of the person who has died, and
  • the first £270,000 of the estate, and half of the remaining estate.

Jointly-owned property.

Couples may jointly own their home. There are two different ways of jointly owning a home. These are beneficial joint tenancies and tenancies in common.

If the partners were beneficial joint tenants at the time of the death, when the first partner dies, the surviving partner will automatically inherit the other partner’s share of the property. However, if the partners are tenants in common, the surviving partner does not automatically inherit the other person’s share.

Children.

Children of the intestate person will inherit if there is no surviving married or civil partner. If there is a surviving partner, they will inherit only if the estate is worth more than a certain amount.

If there is no surviving married or civil partner

If there is no surviving partner, the children of a person who has died without leaving a will inherit the whole estate. This applies however much the estate is worth. If there are two or more children, the estate will be divided equally between them.

If there is a surviving partner

If there is a surviving partner, a child only inherits from the estate if the estate is valued at over £270,000. If there are two or more children, the children will inherit in equal shares: one half of the value of the estate above £270,000.

If there are no surviving relatives

If there are no surviving relatives who can inherit under the rules of intestacy, the estate passes to the Crown.

If you wish to discuss planning your Will or Estate planning please call us on 0161 696 5217 or click here to find out more about our Will writing service.