What If There’s No Will?


When someone dies without a Will this is calleddying intestate’. When there is no Will in place, administering the deceased estate can become even more complicated. Probate still needs to occur, but the process is slightly different; instead of a named executor, anadministratoris appointed. This is usually a family member who applies for a Grant of Representation. The administrator will be responsible for the distribution of the estate.

Who can inherit?

Someone who dies without making a Will or is declared to have an invalid Will is known as anintestate person’. When this happens, the deceased estate is subject to Intestacy laws. These laws stipulate who can inherit from the estate, and how much.

Intestacy law is very specific about who can inherit what. It does not allow non-blood family members to inherit, so unmarried partners and any stepchildren will not stand to inherit anything. The laws don’t take into account modern, unconventional family structures, so if no surviving blood relatives can be traced, then the whole estate will go to the Crown.


Intestacy law also specifies which assets can go to which family members. If a property is jointly owned, it automatically passes to the surviving joint owner. If the property is owned solely by the deceased, then it passes on to the surviving partner (if they were married or in a civil partnership). The same goes for joint bank and savings accounts – if one owner dies, then the entirety of the money goes to the surviving joint owner. Should there be no surviving partner, the estate goes to the next of kin (for example, children or grandchildren).

In cases where the estate is larger than £250,000, and there are other relatives, then the surviving partner inherits:

  • All property and possessions.
  • The first £250,000.
  • Half of the remaining estate.

If you are informally separated (e.g., separated but not divorced), the surviving partner is still entitled to inherit.


As the laws can be quite complex, there is a narrow margin of error, and the administrator of the estate will be financially liable for any loss caused by a mistake (even if these were honest errors). The administrator also owes a duty of protection to the estate, which could include maintaining the insurance on any properties and ensuring that any payment on any credit accounts or household bills is up to date.

Should you be confident you can carry out the duties of an administrator, consider how much responsibility — and potentially personal liability — you are prepared to take on.​

It’s likely that the distribution of the estate will take a long time—up to several months or even years. The administrator must be sure that they can devote the necessary time to the task. Remember, when you are administering the estate of an intestate person, you may be personally financially liable for any losses incurred due to an error or mistake.

Can non-relatives inherit?

Intestacy laws do not allow people who are not related to the deceased to inherit from the estate. This includes married relatives, unmarried partners, close friends and carers.

If a non-relative is left financially unsupported after the death, then they can apply to the court for financial provision from the estate (although this provision is in no way guaranteed).

Writing a will is the only way to truly ensure that non-relatives receive what they may be entitled to.

Help with intestate estates

As Probate specialists, we are experts in Intestacy laws and can guarantee that the law’s specifications are followed to the letter.

If you would like to seek advice about administering the Will of an intestate person, or if the validity of a Will is in doubt, contact us. Consultation is free and there is no obligation to instruct any of our services.

Please call us on 0191 567 7244 and we’ll be happy to help you. 

If you would rather contact us online, you could email us on info@cooklaw.co.uk or complete our free online enquiry form and we will be in touch with you shortly.

Two people in suits shaking hands
Cooklaw C Icon

Navigating the legal maze can at times be daunting. We understand the complexities of the law and are dedicated to providing you with expert guidance and comprehensive solutions for all aspects of property and wealth related matters.

Let Cooklaw be your trusted guide. Contact us today to receive the clarity and confidence you deserve.

info@cooklaw.co.uk 0191 567 7244