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10 Wills and Probate
9. Who gets the estate if there is no will?
Any inheritance tax must be paid. After that, all debts (including mortgages and other loans) must be repaid, whether the dead person has made a will or not. After that, the Administration of Estates Act 1925 sets out who gets what in every situation where there is no will. Some of the more common situations are as follows.
If there is a husband, wife or civil partner, but no other relatives
If there is a husband or wife and children
The children of the deceased, including illegitimate and adopted children, share between them:
Stepchildren get nothing (unless they are named in a will). If one of the children has already died, leaving children of their own, their share will pass to those children (that is, the grandchildren of the person whose estate is being dealt with).
If there is a husband, wife or civil partner, and relatives (but no children)
The parents of the dead person, or if they have died, the brothers and sisters or their descendants, share the other half of what is left.
If there are children, but no living husband, wife or civil partner
If there is no husband, wife, civil partner or children
1. the parents of the dead person;
2. brothers or sisters of the dead person who have the same mother and father, or their descendants;
3. half-brothers or half-sisters (who had either the same mother or the same father), or their descendants;
5. uncles and aunts 'of the whole blood' (this means brothers and sisters of the parents of the dead person, as long as they had the same mother and father themselves), or their descendants;
6. uncles and aunts 'of the half blood' (this means brothers and sisters of the parents of the dead person who had only the same mother or father); or
7. the Crown (the state).
One common area of misunderstanding is over what happens when a person dies without a will, leaving children or brothers and sisters, but one of these children or brothers or sisters has already died, leaving children or grandchildren of their own. In this situation, those children or grandchildren will get the share that their parent would have got, had they been alive.
Similar rules apply so that, for example, where an uncle has already died leaving children, those children will get the share the uncle would have got if he had been alive.
This leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Paul Elmhirst, a solicitor specialising in wills and probate.
Leaflet version: July 2007
CLS Legal Info Leaflets
(Legal Information Leaflets)