When someone dies without leaving a Will, in legal terms they are said to have died ‘intestate’. As the deceased hasn’t left a Will outlining their wishes, their assets and possessions (known as ‘estate’) are distributed according to the rules of intestacy.

The Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act was introduced in 2014 to simplify the rules of intestacy in England and Wales.

The provisions are as follows:

1. Married person with no children

If a person who has a spouse or civil partner but no children dies without a Will, their surviving spouse/civil partner inherits everything.

(The old rules stated that if a person who has no children died intestate the surviving spouse/civil partner would share their estate with the deceased’s surviving parents and siblings.)

2. Married person with children

When a person dies without a Will and leaves a spouse and children behind, the surviving spouse receives the Statutory Legacy currently of £270,000 (from 6 February 2020), plus the deceased’s personal belongings (known in legal terms as ‘personal chattels’) and half of their estate automatically.

The surviving children then inherit the remaining half share of their deceased parent’s estate on trust until they reach the age of 18.

(Previously the spouse would only be entitled to receive the income of the half share of the estate, which would then pass on to the children when the surviving spouse dies.)

3. Statutory Legacy increase

The Statutory Legacy (mentioned above in point 2) increases, at least every five years, in line with the consumer price index.

4. Personal chattels

Personal chattels (mentioned above in point 2) covers all tangible movable property, except for property which:

  • consists of money or securities for money, or
  • was used at the death of the intestate solely or mainly for business purposes, or
  • was held at the death of the intestate solely as an investment.

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