Unmarried? Don’t have a will? What you need to know about Intestacy Rules

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13 March 2019

Unmarried? Don’t have a will? What you need to know about Intestacy Rules

Holding Hands

Imagine this…You’ve lived with your partner for 20, 30, 40 years, but never really felt that marriage or civil partnership was for you, or at least not a priority. And you never bothered making a will, because, well you just didn’t get round to it. Surely all of those years together, co-habiting, even raising children together, means that your estate naturally passes to your partner. Right?




Unfortunately not, here’s why…


The Rules of Intestacy


If you die without a will, these rules govern strictly how your estate is dealt out, and it’s not always how you’d expect.


Who inherits under the Rules of Intestacy?


The following list of people can inherit under the rules of intestacy, but again, strict rules apply:


Married Partners or Civil Partners



Great Grandchildren


Brothers and Sisters

Nieces and Nephews


Uncles and Aunts

Half Uncles and Half Aunts   


So what about common-law partners?


Nope. Same goes for same-sex partners not in a civil partnership. And neither can close friends, carers or relations by marriage. Nor can step-children.


So what do married partners or those in civil partnerships inherit under the Rules of Intestacy?


  • All the personal property and belongings of the person who has died, and
  • The first £250,000 of the estate, and
  • Half of the remaining estate.


What about Joint Accounts and Jointly Owned Homes?


Regardless of your marriage status, the funds in joint accounts will automatically pass to the surviving account holder. Likewise with jointly owned homes, providing you’re ‘beneficial joint tenants’, the surviving partner will automatically inherit the deceased’s half of the home. However if you’re ‘tenants in common’, the share of the home owned by the deceased will be managed under the rules of intestacy detailed above. If in doubt, it’s worth checking the details of your agreement.


What about the kids?


If you’re unmarried, or not in a civil partnership, any children will inherit all of the estate, split equally amongst them regardless of age or any other factor. If there is a surviving married or civil partner, the children will inherit half of anything over £250,000 (the other half being allocated to the partner)


And if there are no surviving relatives?


The estate passes to The Crown (known as Bona Vacantia). The Crown can make grants from the estate, but one would need to seek legal advice to make such a claim   


I’m not married or in a civil partnership. What should I do about it?


Don’t worry. A professionally written will needn’t cost the earth (ours start at £99+VAT), and it will allow you to detail exactly what you want to happen to your estate in the event of your death. We make it really easy for you, so you can get on with enjoying your life, with the peace of mind that your estate is in hand should the worst happen.