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There is a common misconception that, if you die without a Will, everything will pass to your spouse or partner, and it will then be up to them to make sure they put in place a valid Will to make sure your other loved ones inherit from your estate. This is actually not the case. Our Wills Solicitors in Lancaster would explain that, without a valid Will, the intestacy rules dictate what happens to your estate; this could mean that the people who you would want to benefit, do not. 

What happens if I don't leave a Will? 

Well, as can be seen above, your estate will be distributed under the rules of intestacy. These are a set of rules, set out in law, which dictate who receives your estate. These are as follows:- 

Spouses or Civil Partners 

Only spouses or civil partners can benefit under the intestacy rules; not cohabitees (the common law marriage is, simply, a myth). Before 26 July 2023, the spouse or civil partner received the first £270,000.00. Since this date, the amount has increased to £322,000.00. If the deceased's estate is valued over this amount, the remainder will be divided as to 50% to the surviving spouse/civil partner, and the remaining 50% to children (if any). 

Children (excluding step-children) 

As explained above, if there is a surviving spouse or civil partner, children only receive 50% of any estate worth over £322,000.00. However, if the deceased is widowed, divorced, or never married, their estate will pass in its entirety to any children. If any children die during the deceased's lifetime, thus predeceasing them, their share would pass down their bloodline (i.e. to grandchildren or great-grandchildren of the deceased). 


If there are no people surviving in the above categories, a person's estate passes to their parents, or their surviving parents. However, it is important to note that if the deceased died before 1 January 1970 and their parents were unmarried when they were born, their father would not be included in this category. 

Siblings (or their descendants) 

If the deceased's parents have both died before them, the estate would pass to their siblings or, if any of the siblings had also died before them, to the children of that sibling. So, if Mr A dies with two siblings living, and one who has died before him, his estate would be divided into 3 shares: 1 for each of his living siblings, and 1 share for the children of his sibling who died before him. 

Half-siblings (or their descendants) 

Much like above with siblings, if there are no full siblings (or their descendants), the estate would be divided between the deceased's half-siblings, or if they have died before the deceased, their children. 


If the deceased died with no surviving parents, siblings (or their descendants), or half-siblings (or their descendants), the estate would be divided between the grandparents who were living at the date of death. 

Aunts or Uncles (or their descendants) 

If the deceased had no surviving grandparents, their estate would pass to their uncles or aunts (or to their living descendants, i.e. the deceased's cousins). 

Half-Aunts or Half-Uncles (or their descendants) 

If the above fails, the estate would pass to the surviving half-aunts or half-uncles of the deceased, and any share which would have passed to a predeceased half-aunt or half-uncle would pass to their descendants. 

The Crown 

If all of the above fail, the whole estate is 'bona vacantia' (meaning it's ownerless) and passes to the Crown. The Crown will simply hold the unowned property, in case anyone comes forward to make a claim. 

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What is the Statutory Legacy? 

Our Wills Solicitors in Lancaster would explain that the statutory legacy is actually explained above. It is the amount of money that passes under law (thus being 'statutory') to the surviving spouse or co-owner. Since 26 July 2023, this amount has increased to £322,000.00. This excludes jointly owned assets. For example, if both spouses own a family home in their joint names, and the one of them dies, the surviving owner would become the sole legal owner of the entire house. 

How do jointly owned assets pass on death? 

The assumption under law is generally that assets owned jointly with another person belong to each owner equally. Therefore, on death, generally it is accepted that these assets pass by survivorship when one co-owner dies, leaving the surviving co-owner as the sole owner. Whilst these assets would not be included as part of the intestacy rules above, they will still count in a person's estate for Inheritance Tax purposes, unless the surviving co-owner is a spouse or civil partner. 
However, there are cases where this may not be the case. For example, if someone is added to an account as a nominee/appointee for the owner (although this would usually be noted on the account) or if someone holds funds in account on trust for the benefit of other people. 

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Can you vary an intestacy? 

If all beneficiaries are over the age of 18, have capacity, and are in agreement to making the changes, they can enter into a Deed of Variation. A Deed of Variation, changes how an estate is distributed and, for tax purposes, writes those changes back as if the deceased had made a Will in those terms. There is a strict timeframe in which these Deeds must be entered into, so you should seek legal advice as quickly as possible. Our Wills Solicitors in Lancaster often draft Deeds of Variation, and can assist with advising on and drafting these. 

Can you vary an intestacy without agreement? 

If the beneficiaries of an estate cannot agree about how to distribute an estate, or if any of the beneficiaries lack capacity or are under 18, the 'disappointed party' could seek additional provision from the estate through the Court. They would do so by making a claim for provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. 
Not just anyone can make a claim under the 1975 Act. Those who can are limited to spouses/civil partners, former spouses or civil partners (provided they have not remarried, entered into a new civil partnership, or the parties did not enter into a Clean Break Consent Order/equivalent during their lifetimes), children, cohabitees who lived with the deceased for two years immediately before their death, anyone who was treated as a child of the deceased (for example, step children) or anyone being financially maintained by the deceased. 
There are, again, strict time limits for making claims under the 1975 Act, however, a successful claim would override the intestacy provisions to make provision for a successful party.  
Claims under the 1975 Act can be complex, stressful, and time consuming, not to mention costly for the parties involved, so they are not an advisable alternative to making a Will. Contact our Wills Solicitors in Lancaster today if you would like to discuss making a Will, to ensure your loved ones are provided for after your death. 

How can Wills Solicitors in Lancaster help? 

MG Legal, Wills Solicitors in Lancaster, will help you by ensuring that you have a valid, up-to-date Will to meet your needs. Whether you require a straightforward Will, or a Will which incorporates trust provisions, our Will-drafting Solicitors in Lancaster can provide you with all the advice you need, and prepare your final Will, ensuring your requirements are covered.  
Contact our Wills Solicitors in Lancaster today to discuss your probate matter on 01524 581 306 or fill out our “Contact us” form below, and a member of our team of Wills Solicitors will be in touch within one working hour. We are based in Lancaster LA1, and accept instructions from clients throughout Lancaster, Carnforth, Bare and Morecambe. 

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To speak to a fully-qualified Wills solicitor, contact us online here. 
Or give us a call on 01524 581 306. 

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