Alisha Rogers, private client executive at Spire Solicitors LLP, offers advice on what happens if someone dies without a will.

Although many understand the importance of planning for their future, there are many occasions where a family member may die without a will.
When someone dies without having a valid will, it is called dying intestate. This means the estate will be determined by rules of intestacy. This will also occur if a person does have a will but no beneficiaries are named.

The assets, including any property, money, and possessions, will be sold or transferred, and liabilities will be settled. The leftover balance will then be paid to the beneficiaries. This is known as Administering the Estate.
Once administered, the estate will be distributed in accordance with the legislation. This means that if someone dies without a will, the law will determine who receives and in what share. This means that in many probate cases where there is no will, unmarried or unregistered partners, stepchildren, and stepbrothers and sisters will not inherit anything.
An application must be made to the court before the legal administration of the Estate can begin. The intestacy rules that determine who gets what can be complex and the family tree will need to be clearly understood. Due to these difficulties, cases of probate without a will can have a greater risk of mistakes in the identification of who administers and benefits from the Estate. Estate administrators could be personally liable for any loss resulting from a breach of their duty.
It is thus highly advised that probate cases without a valid will are dealt with by specialist probate solicitors.

Rules of Intestacy

As described above, the rules of intestacy can be strict and complicated and do not allow for modern family relationships. Below are some simple examples of how an estate may be divided in straight forward situations.
If the person who died was married or in a civil partnership with no children, all of their estate will go to their partner.
If the person who died was married or in a civil partnership with children, the first £270,000 of their estate will go to their partner together with all the deceased’s personal chattels. Anything over this will be divided between the partner and the children. The partner will receive 50pc and the children will receive 50pc divided between them.
Another example is if the person who died was not married or in a civil partnership but was living with their partner, the partner will not be entitled to receive anything.
If the person who died was not married or in a civil partnership but did have children, the whole estate will go to them. If there are no children, the estate will instead go to parents, siblings, or other relatives.
If you would like to discuss any points in this article further or are looking for independent advice when administering an estate without a will, please contact Spire Solicitors LLP on 01953 882864. We can also assist with writing a will to ensure your wishes for your family and assets are honoured upon your passing.