If you don't have a valid Will in place at the time of your death, you are said to have died intestate. Under these circumstances, the courts will handle your estate according to the rules of intestacy, which make up the standardised procedure in England and Wales for distributing a person's assets after they pass away. Unfortunately, it can take a long time to process your estate in this way, and those who you would have liked to provide for may receive little or even nothing at all, whilst others may benefit where you did not wish them to.
If you were to die intestate, the primary beneficiaries of your estate would be a spouse or civil partner (even you have been separated for a long time) and any children that you have. If you do not have a spouse or children, your estate will be distributed amongst other close relatives. If no relatives can be located, your estate will pass to the Crown.
It is worth highlighting that there may be people in your life who would not be able to inherit under the intestacy rules. This includes, but is not limited to, unmarried partners or those not in a civil partnership, close friends, and family members related by marriage.
To help you see how your estate could be distributed without a Will in place, we have created a flowchart showing the inheritance procedure for those who die intestate.