If someone dies without a valid will, that person is said to die intestate, and the law sets out all who may inherit under the Rules of Intestacy originally brought in under the Administration of Estates Act 1925 and more recently updated in February 2020. The process of dealing with the estate is the same as with Probate (where there is a valid will), but where there is no valid will, there will be a Grant of Letters of Administration needed.
A person’s inheritance is determined by the estate’s value and the relationships of surviving family members. No one could inherit automatically if they weren’t in a formal legal relationship with the person who died through marriage, civil partnership, or blood relation.
The term ‘common-law husband or wife’ is often used, but this relationship is not legally recognised. This means unmarried partners do not inherit from their partner who has died. It would be helpful to take legal advice because jointly owned assets may complicate the situation.
The following Flowchart might help you see how these rules operate in practice.