Dying without leaving a Will - Make a Legal Will

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Intestacy is a legal term that describes an estate left without direction for distribution in a will. The legal position is different in England and Scotland but the following general comments apply to both jurisdictions:

Who gets what? - The Intestacy Rules

If you die without leaving a valid Will then the law decides who gets what. It does not matter what you may have wished for or promised while you were alive. If there is no valid Will then who gets what is determined by the Intestacy Rules. Here is a guide to what would happen.

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If you have a lawful spouse (ie you are legally married)

If your estate is worth less than £200,000 then your spouse gets everything. If your estate is worth more than £200,000 and you had no other surviving relative (eg children, grandchildren, parents), then your spouse will still get everything.

If you have a lawful spouse, plus children

If your estate is worth less than £200,000 then your spouse gets everything. If your estate is worth more than £200,000 then your spouse would get £200,000 and a life interest (ie the right to take interest on the remainder, but not the capital itself) in half of anything over this sum. Your children would get half the sum over £200,000 immediately and be entitled to the other half on the death of your spouse. Should any of your children die before you then their children would be entitled to take their parent's share.

If you have a lawful spouse, no children, but parents/brothers/sisters/ grandparents/aunts/uncles

If your estate is worth less than £450,000 then your spouse gets everything.

If your estate is worth more than £450,000 then your spouse would get £450,000, plus half the balance.

The remaining half goes to the other relatives in this order of priority - parents; brothers/sisters; half brothers/sisters; grandparents; aunts/uncles; spouses of aunts/uncles.

If you are not lawfully married, but have had children

Your estate will be shared between the children.

Should they die before you then their children would take their share.

If you are not lawfully married, have no children, but have parents or have had brothers/sisters/ grandparents/aunts /uncles

Your estate will be shared equally amongst them in this order of priority - parents; brothers/sisters; half brothers/sisters; grandparents; aunts/uncles; spouses of aunts/uncles.

If any of these have predeceased, but have living children then the children will take their parent's share.

If you are not lawfully married, and have no other relatives

Your estate will go the Crown

It should be noted that these rules on intestacy do not recognise "common law" partners, and that "children" includes natural, adopted and illegitimate children, but excludes step-children.

The figures are correct as at 1 February 2009, but are subject to change.

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