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HMRC internal manual

Trusts, Settlements and Estates Manual

Deceased persons: intestacy: England and Wales - division of estate

Subject to the rights of the surviving spouse or civil partner (TSEM7826), the estate is divisible in equal shares among the children of the intestate. The share of a deceased child passes to his/her issue, if any.

If the intestate is not married, the rules of inheritance apply. Unmarried partners and/or friends will not inherit. The rules set out the priority order in which the estate would be equally shared.

  1. Children or their descendants
  2. Parents
  3. Brothers or sister or their descendants
  4. Half siblings or their descendants
  5.  Grandparents
  6. Uncles and/or aunts or their descendants
  7. Half uncles and/or aunts or their descendants.

Multiple marriages and divorces may complicate matters. Children from all relationships and legally adopted children receive equal shares. In relation to step children, regardless of the relationship, the absence of a Will may complicate matters.

Request for advice in relation to deaths before 1 October 2014 should be referred to Trusts & Estates Technical Edinburgh.

Where a beneficiary is unmarried and under 18 (21 if the intestate died before 1 January 1970), the income of his/her share may be paid or applied for his/her maintenance, education or benefit. Any surplus income is accumulated in trust until he/she reaches the age of 18(or 21, as appropriate) or marries or enters into a civil partnership under that age.

No surviving kin

Where there are no surviving kin entitled to his/her estate, the estate passes as bona vacantia to

  • the Crown, or
  • the Duchy of Lancaster (if the deceased was resident in the Duchy of Lancaster) or
  • the Duchy of Cornwall (if the deceased was resident in the Duchy of Cornwall).