Under the rules of intestacy, the primary beneficiaries of the estate (those who are entitled to receive it) are married or civil partners and children. In the absence of any children, the surviving spouse or civil partner will inherit the entire estate. In the absence of a spouse or civil partner, the children will inherit the estate (in equal shares if there is more than one child). If there is a surviving spouse or civil partner and children:
- The spouse or civil partner inherits all personal property, the first £270,000 of the estate and half of the remaining estate.
- The children inherit (in equal shares if there are two or more children) half of the remainder of the estate.
For any children under the age of 18, any inheritance will be held on statutory trust until they are 18 (or until they are married or have entered into civil partnership).
If there are no surviving children and no spouse or civil partner, the following relatives may be entitled to inherit part of the estate:
- Grandchildren or great-grandchildren;
- Brothers and sisters;
- Nephews and nieces;
- Uncles, aunts and cousins; and
- Half-uncles, half-aunts and half-cousins.
However, the following people do not have any right to inherit under the intestacy rules:
- Unmarried partners or co-habitees;
- Friends and carers; and
- Relatives by marriage (eg. brother in law).