My Mum Died Without Leaving a Valid Will – Now What?

It is heartbreaking and devastating to lose a loved one whatever the circumstances, but it can become even more distressing to find out that that person did not leave a Will behind to protect their loved ones after their passing.

If your mother has died without leaving a Will, the government will step in and delegate your mother’s estate using the rules of intestacy. The first thing you need to do in this circumstance is to determine how to deal with the estate in order to handle your mother’s affairs. Even without a Will there are one or two things you can do before the state takes over.

Visiting will writers at this point will not help you at all, but it is still a good idea to talk to a lawyer so they can advise you on what steps you can take in your individual circumstances.


When a person dies without leaving a will, according to the law, that person died intestate, which means there aren’t any written instructions to give direction, and neither is there an executor to carry out the deceased’s instructions.

The state will then substitute itself into the role of executor or trustee, until such time as they are able to appoint one on behalf of the estate. An executor’s main function is to distribute the estate and they are therefore extremely important in the process.

A representative appointed by the court

In cases of intestacy, the court may appoint either the husband, a sibling or one of the children of the deceased, where they exist, to act as a trustee or executor. It is common for the state to name a close relative for these functions.

If your mother has died and you are having disagreements or arguments with someone who could potentially be named as the trustee, then, the state will decide how to handle the affairs of the estate without naming any executor.

Taxes and Creditors

Even before your mother’s estate can be distributed to her heirs, the court-appointed representative will have to first settle any debts your mother had, and deduct the assets used from the estate. These debts should also include the funeral expenses for you to bury your mother.

The representative will also file your mother’s final tax returns, and if she owed income tax, this amount will also be deducted from the estate. If she is entitled to a tax refund, the representative will file this as well, and if granted, it will become a part of her estate.

The laws of succession

After settling the taxes and your mother’s debts, the court representative will then embark on the task of distributing your mother’s estate to the rightful heirs. Each estate has its own rules when determining who should inherit or not.

Here is what the law states:

The spouse

The spouse is normally the first beneficiary and will usually get the largest share of the estate if your mother has died intestate. They will get all personal possessions regardless of value, and the first £250,000 of the estate.

A spouse also means any partners they may have separated with. Under the laws of intestacy, they are entitled to inherit a part of the estate. If your mother was cohabiting with a partner, who is commonly referred to as a common-law partner, by which it means they were neither married nor were they in a civil partnership, that person is not entitled to inherit anything from the estate.

Close relatives

Children – As a child of your mother, you and your siblings are entitled to equal ownership of the property. However, if there is a surviving spouse, you will only inherit a part of the estate if it is worth at over £250,000.

If there is no spouse, the estate of your mother will be inherited by her children in equal amounts.  

Adopted children, which includes step-children as well, have all the same rights to inherit the estate under the laws of intestacy.

Grandchildren and great-grandchildren;

A grandchild, or a great-grandchild, cannot inherit your mother’s estate, unless;

  • Their parent – your mother’s child, or grandparent has already died.
  • Their parent is alive when your mother dies, but becomes deceased before they reach 18 years of age.

In any of the above situations, the grandchild, or great-grandchild will inherit equal measures of the estate.


This is just a simple guide to what actually happens if a person dies without leaving a will. The entire process can become much more complicated and can take years and years. As an adult of sound mind, it is advisable to leave a will so that everyone you care about will be well taken care of.