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What is intestacy?

Posted on Tuesday, 9th July 2013 by

Photo Credit: Ben Heine via Compfight cc

When a person dies who having not made a valid will or other binding declaration and they own property greater than the sum of their funeral expenses and enforceable debts the estate will go into Intestacy.


Intestacy law; also known as the intestate succession statutes and the law of descent and distribution, uses the law of inheritance to determine to whom the estate’s property is entitled. If a will has been created but it is legally invalid, it is still the law of inheritance which will determine who is entitled to the estate, not the wishes expressed within the will.


In Intestacy Law the rules have been uniform since 1925 although they have since been supplemented by the discretionary provisions of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 to provide a fair result when strict division using intestacy law would provide an unfair result to a dependant spouse or relative.


If an estate becomes intestate after death but thy do not have an identifiable heirs, their estate will generally be legally assigned to The Crown. In order for partner’s to inherit using the rules of intestate they must be married or have civil partnership with the decedent at the time of death. Therefore if the civil partnership has been legally ended or if the parties are divorced a partner will not receive inheritance. However, parties who have informally separated can still inherit.

The spouse or civil partner of deceased whose estate is intestate will inherit:

  • All personal belongings of the deceased, the first £450,000 of the estate and half of the amount above £450,000 if there are no children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
  • All personal belongings of the deceased, the first £250,000 estate and a life interest in half of the amount above £250,000 if there are wither children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren.

A life interest means the inheritor can draw interest from investing the life interest but they cannot sell or dispose of it. The capital amount may then be passed to the descendants on death of the spouse or civil partner.

Emma Fuller is head of the private client team at EHL; our solicitors in Loughborough are experts in their fields and dedicated to quality client care. If you would like to find out more about our solicitors in Loughborough please contact us.

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Emma Fuller - Wills, Probate and LPA
Emma Fuller - Wills, Probate and LPA
emma.f@ehlsolicitors.co.uk 01509 212 108
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