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Inheritance is one of those taboo subjects that people don’t like to talk about, but what happens when a loved one dies leaving no formal instruction on what is to happen to their estate?

Can you inherit without a will? The initial answer to this question is yes, but it’s a complicated process. It all depends on how closely related you are to the deceased. This is by no means the end when it comes to inheritance without a will, there are so many people that can inherit; but as the deceased’s partner and children are going to be the family members in most need it’s probably important to look into their entitlements in more detail.

When someone dies without leaving a will certain rules must be followed in order to share out their estate. These are known as the rules of intestacy, and the person that dies is known as an intestate person. These rules also apply if someone has made a will but it is not valid; in this instance the wishes that are made in the invalid will are not adhered to.

If you are married to or the civil partner of the deceased at the time of their death – even if you are separated but are legally still married – then you can inherit under the rules of intestacy. If the deceased has surviving children, grandchildren or great grandchildren and the estate is worth over £250,000 then you will inherit everything that was of a personal nature to the deceased, the first £250,000 of the estate and a life interest in half of whatever is remaining of the estate. This half, you cannot spend, however you can benefit from its use for your lifetime.

If the deceased has surviving children then thy will inherit if there is no surviving marital or civil partner, if they did have a legal partner then the child/ children will only inherit if the estate is worth above a certain amount. For example, if there is a partner and only if the estate is worth over £250,000, will the children inherit. If the estate is worth over £250,000 then the children will inherit half of the value of the estate above £250,000 and they will also inherit the other half that is above £250,000 when the partner dies. If the deceased didn’t have a partner or if they are also deceased the children will inherit the entire estate. If there is more than one child the estate will be shared equally between them.

If a child’s parents are have not been legally registered as in a partnership then the child can still inherit from the deceased’s estate. The same applies to adopted children; they can also inherit the estate from their adoptive parents.

Children however, do not receive their inheritance until they reach the age of 18 or the time that they marry under this age. Until they reach this stage their inheritance is managed by trustees.

Maggie Cummings is an inheritance specialist and the author of this article for are a leading solicitors in solving unclear inheritance cases using the most up to date inheritance law.