The information on these web pages and downloads apply only to England & Wales. The laws of intestacy are different in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The intestate estate will be distributed according to rules dating back to 1925 (in England & Wales). Who inherits your estate on your death depends on your marital status, whether you have children and the surviving members of your immediate family.
The statutory legacy below (the £250,000) was only recently raised on 1st February 2009 (it was previously set to £125,000 in 1993) in order to reduce the 4000 cases each year where a spouse is in danger of losing their home due to the low statutory legacy.
The intestacy rules were changed again on 1st October 2014 by the Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act 2014.
Note, however, that any person who is financially dependent on the deceased, whether they inherit on intestacy or not, could make a claim through the courts under the Inheritance (Provision For Family And Dependents) Act 1975.
Please follow this link to download a flowchart of the Laws of Intestacy.
The spouse or Civil Partner will benefit if he/she survives the intestate by 28 days, otherwise the estate will be dealt with as if there had been no spouse (*).
If a class of relative existed but has died, then if they had had children, those children will inherit equally what would have been their parent’s share - per stirpes (**). However, cousins are the remotest relatives that can inherit under the laws of intestacy.
Within each class of relative, relatives of the full blood (i.e. they share the same parent) take preference over half blood (i.e. only one parent in common.)
In-laws have no rights.
Legally adopted children have the same rights as their adopted parent's natural children, but lose all rights to their birth parents’ Estates.
Stepchildren and foster children have no automatic rights.
Children may only inherit from their 18th birthday (in England & Wales).
How beneficiaries will inherit jointly-owned assets is dependent on how that property (property, land, bank account, etc) is held.
For married couples or couples in a Civil Partnership with children the entire estate is distributed as follows:
The surviving spouse or Civil Partner gets the first £250,000 plus goods and all personal chattels.
The surviving spouse gets half of the remainder.
The other half goes to the deceased's children immediately (or on trust until they are 18.)