If someone dies without a Will

If someone dies without a Will

If you die without a valid Will the law decides who gets your assets. This is called ‘dying intestate'.

These rules apply to everyone and do not take into account an individual’s wishes or situation.

Who gets the estate

If you die without a Will or your Will is not valid, then an application for a Grant of Letters of Administration will need to be made to the Supreme Court. In most instances the grant is made to the next of kin of the deceased. For example, the spouse, domestic partner or a child of the deceased.

The rules for distributing a person’s estate if they did not leave a Will changed on 1 November 2017. These changes apply to people who die without leaving a Will on or after that date. If the person died and left behind a partner, then all of the estate goes to them. If there were also children from another relationship then some of the estate may also go to those children, but this depends on how much money was left in the estate. This won’t happen unless there was about $500,000 in the estate after all debts and funeral expenses have been paid. Different rules apply if the person left behind more than one partner.

If the person had no partner or children then all the estate goes first to:

  • parents
  • then siblings
  • then grandparents
  • then uncles and aunts
  • then cousins.

The estate does not pass to the government unless there are no living relatives.

Domestic or de facto relationships

A domestic or de facto relationship is when two people are not married but live together or have lived together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis. The same laws apply to same-sex couples as to heterosexual (different-sex) couples.

You need to have lived in a domestic or de facto relationship for two years, or have a child together, or have formally registered your relationship before your partner can benefit from your estate if you die without a Will.

The safest way to make sure your partner gets what you want them to inherit from your estate is to make a valid Will.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with Wills and estates.