What happens if a person dies without a will to the property?

When a person passes away without there being a will in place, their property is shared out following certain rules. A person who dies without leaving a will is referred to as an intestate person and their estate will be divided based upon the rules of intestacy. Usually, intestacy rules mean that spouses, children or other close family members can inherit different things if the will is legally valid and this applies to houses or commercial properties too.

Who cannot inherit a property?

Before the delicate topic of inheritance is discussed, the following people have no automatic right to any property, money or possessions unless stated in a will:

  • Couples who are not married or in a civil partnership
  • Relations by marriage
  • Carers
  • Close friends

If there was no will

If your partner or relative has passed away without leaving a will, with instructions on what should happen to their home, the outcome will depend on a variety of different scenarios.

If you and your other half were not married or in a civil partnership then you are not entitled to anything, including any property, if they were to pass away. In contrast, if married, you will inherit the vast majority of their estate even without a will. This rule still applies if you are separated but not divorced.

When it comes to children and grandchildren, neither are entitled to anything without a will. However, if a spouse inherits a property, they can decide to sell it and split the proceeds amongst children and grandchildren if they wish.

Joint-owned property

When couples buy a property together they can choose to do this in one of two ways, as either:

  • Beneficial joint tenants
  • Tenants in common

If you and your partner own a property as beneficial joint tenants, the surviving spouse would inherit the home. However, couples who own a property as tenants in common won’t automatically receive their partner’s share of the home if they were to pass away.

Money is also shared in this way. A surviving partner who was a beneficial joint tenant will receive all money and property upon the death of their other half.

Can children inherit a property?

Children can inherit a property, but it will depend upon whether there is a surviving partner or not. If there is a surviving parent or step-parent a child will only inherit if the estate is valued at over £250,000. If there is more than one child any assets will be split into equal shares between them. However, as a property is a physical item and often lived in by the remaining family, it will often be decided to sell the home when the children have grown up and delivered their inheritance this way.

If both parents have passed away, or if there is no remaining partner, a child will usually inherit everything. Whatever an estate is worth, a child or children can receive it all, including those who were adopted. Usually, children do not receive their inheritance until they reach the age of 18. Until then it is in the hands of trustees who manage the finances and assets on the child’s behalf.

Bona vacantia

If there is nobody eligible to inherit a property or any assets, the estate is passed to the Crown. This is known as bona vacantia. It is then up to the Treasury Solicitor to decide what happens to the estate and any properties.


If you do come into possession of an inherited property and weighed up if it’s worth keeping or not and decided to sell, WeBuyAnyHome can give you a cash offer.

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