Intestacy rules

If you die without a will, the intestacy rules dictate who can administer your estate. These will not necessarily be the person you would want to have such power over your estate.

Unmarried couples

If you have a partner, but are not married and have not entered into a civil partnership, you have, broadly speaking, no automatic rights to your partner's estate if they die without making a will.

In essence, if your partner dies without making a will, the intestacy rules will determine what happens to their assets. However, as you might expect, there are some exceptions to these rules. For example, if you have a joint bank account with your partner you will usually get all the money in the account under the “survivorship rules”.

If you own a house together as “joint tenants” you will own the entire house; but this is not automatically the case if you hold the house as “tenants in common”, because your partner's share in the property will pass in accordance with the intestacy rules.


If you have any children together, all your partner's other assets will bypass you and go to your children. If there are no children at the time of your partner's death, the assets will pass to their parents. If the parents are no longer alive, they will to go to one of the following (in this order): brother/sister, half brother/half sister, grandparents, uncle/ aunt and so on.

If no relatives, however distant, are alive, your partner's assets will pass to the Crown, unless you can prove — which is not easy — that your partner owned an asset (or part of an asset) on your behalf.

Inheritance claim

It may be possible to bring a claim against your partner's estate for a share of their assets under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Claims can be made under a number of categories which our team of experienced lawyers can explain and explore on your behalf.

Clearly it is better to avoid the heartache of making such a claim if you both make a will now but if you don't, our private client lawyers can offer clear guidance and support and will explore what options you may have to pursue a claim to receive some or all of your partner's estate.

Get in touch 

For further information or advice please call 01753 889995 or email

Intestacy Specialists

Lucy Wood
Practice Group Leader
Dominic Ibbs
Senior Associate
Sharon Heselton
Senior Associate (Non Solicitor)

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