If the deceased leaves issue (eg. children and/or grandchildren) the spouse or civil partner receives:
The deceased’s personal belongings; and
Half of the residue (i.e. what is left after payment of any debts and estate expenses) with the other half going to the children equally.
If the deceased leaves no children and/or grandchildren the spouse or civil partner receives the whole estate.
If the deceased leaves no children and/or grandchildren, parents, brothers or sisters of the whole blood or their children/grandchildren, then the spouse or civil partner takes the whole estate absolutely.
If the deceased dies without leaving a spouse or civil partner the estate then goes to:
The deceased’s children or grandchildren on the statutory trusts. This means that if a child has predeceased his or her parent, leaving children of his own, those grandchildren of the deceased will receive what their predeceased parent was entitled to in equal shares.
If the deceased dies having no spouse, children or grandchildren the estate goes to:
1. the deceased’s parents; if none then
2. the deceased’s brothers or sisters of whole blood on the statutory trusts, failing whom to remoter relations.
If none of these exist then then estate will go to the Crown or the Duchy of Cornwall or the Duchy of Lancaster.
Clearly if you die without having first made a will, your assets may end up being received by someone whom you did not intend or indeed want to receive your estate. It is therefore vital you make a will within which you can state who you would like to benefit from your estate on your death.
For advice on making a Will contact Jan Atkinson, a specialist wills and trusts solicitor and head of department at Osbornes solicitors.