How does someone die intestate?

Posted By: on 21st May 2019 | Category: Wills & Probate

Intestacy arises when a person dies without leaving a valid Will. A person who dies without leaving a Will is called an intestate person. Alternatively, a partial intestacy is when someone dies leaving a valid Will but the Will does not make provision for the entire estate and in this case the intestacy rules apply to the proportion of the estate that the Will fails to dispose of.

What happens when someone dies intestate?

If you do not leave a Will or make a Will but it is not legally valid, the rules of intestacy decide who will administer your estate and how your estate will be shared out and not the wishes expressed in your Will. The first step will be to ascertain who should be administering the estate and who the beneficiaries are.

Who inherits under the intestacy rules?

The distribution of an intestate estate will vary according to whether or not there is a surviving spouse or civil partner. Where there are direct descendants the distribution is more complex and the estate will be divided between the classes of beneficiaries in accordance with the rules.
It is important to note that Cohabiting or unmarried parents and step children do not fall into a class of beneficiary and do not inherit under the rules of intestacy.

The identification of beneficiaries must be considered very carefully and family tress are routinely used to ensure that mistakes are not made. It is the Estate Administrator’s role to ensure that the beneficiaries are correctly identified so as not to result in a breach of duty.

What happens 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. This is known as bona vacantia.

For assistance with the administration of an estate or to prepare a Will to avoid your estate passing under the intestacy rules please contact either our Hove or Horsham offices on 01273 722532 or 01403 210200 or by email at

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