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Will My Estate Pass to The King on Death?

View profile for Tom Couch
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It may seem incomprehensible to imagine your estate, an estate that you have worked your entire lifetime building, becoming the property of the King upon death.

However, the purpose of this article is to explain that this is an inevitable consequence for individuals who have died with no Will or known family.

In this article, I look to clarify that when someone has died without making a Will, that person’s assets are distributed according to the rules of intestacy.

The Rules of Intestacy

Intestacy rules in England and Wales determine how a person’s estate is distributed when they die without a valid Will.

Under the rules of intestacy in England and Wales, if the Deceased has a spouse or civil partner and the estate (in the sole name of the Deceased) is not worth more than £322,000.00, the spouse or civil partner is entitled to everything. Joint assets pass by survivorship unless specific arrangements over those joint assets have been made.

Statutory Legacy Sum

When the estate is worth more than £322,000.00, and the person who died has children, the children will receive half of the remaining amount over the £322,000.00 threshold, and the spouse or civil partner is entitled to the other half including all of the personal possessions of the deceased.


  • Ben’s estate is worth £622,000.00 (assets in his sole name). Ben has a wife called Sarah, and two children called Felix and Sophie.
  • Sarah, being Ben’s spouse, would inherit £472,000.00 (£322,000.00 plus £150,000.00 from half of the remaining estate).
  • Felix and Sophie, being Ben’s children, would inherit £150,000.00 split equally between them.

This amount of £322,000.00 is known as the Statutory Legacy sum and this amount was increased in July 2023.

Order of Priority

No matter the value of the estate, in the absence of a Will the spouse or civil partner of the deceased will inherit all of the deceased’s personal belongings.

If the person who died did not have a spouse or civil partner but did have children, the estate would be equally split between the living children. If any of the children died before the deceased died, their children (grandchildren of the deceased) will inherit in their place. The same applies to great-grandchildren.

In England and Wales, the order of priority after children continues as follows:

  • Any living parents.
  • Any living brothers or sisters, or any living descendants of deceased brothers or sisters (such as nephews or nieces).
  • Any living half-brothers or half-sisters, or any living descendants of deceased half-brothers or half-sisters (such as half-nephews or half-nieces).
  • Any living grandparents.
  • Any living aunts or uncles, or any living descendants of deceased aunts or uncles (such as cousins).
  • Any living half-aunts or half-uncles, or living descendants of deceased half-aunts or half-uncles (such as half-cousins).

When someone dies with no Will or known family, their property passes to the Crown (or the relevant Duchy of Lancaster or Cornwall if appropriate) as ownerless property (or ‘bona vacantia’ (meaning ‘unclaimed goods’)). It can be any kind of property, such as buildings, money, or personal possessions.

The Importance of Writing a Will

Leaving behind a well-written and valid Will in England and Wales offers several benefits, not least avoiding intestacy. These benefits can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Distribution of Assets

You can specify how your assets, such as property, money, and personal belongings, should be distributed amongst your loved ones.

  • Guardianship of Minors

If you have minor children, you can appoint legal guardians to take care of them in the event of your death.

  • Reducing Family Disputes

A well-written and valid Will can help to minimise any potential dispute or conflict over your estate.

  • Inheritance Tax Planning

Your Will can be structured to take advantage of tax allowances and reliefs, potentially reducing the amount of Inheritance Tax payable where applicable.

  • Choice of Executors

You can appoint individuals who you trust as Executors to handle the legal and financial aspects of your estate on death.

Overall, creating a Will is an invaluable step in estate planning. It can make the estate administration process clearer and more straightforward; it can often prevent unnecessary stress for loved ones at an already difficult time, and it can ensure that your assets are distributed as you wish.

If you require any advice in relation to any of the information outlined above, please telephone or email our Inheritance Protection team on 02392 660261 or