When a person dies with a Will or a Trust, it is a simple matter to determine the persons who will inherit from the decedent’s estate. These are the persons that are mentioned in the Will document or Trust document.

However, it is a bit more complicated if a person dies without a Will or a Trust. If a decedent has a surviving spouse, it first must be determined whether decedent’s property was “community property” or “separate property”. Under UK law, a surviving spouse will inherit a decedent’s community property if he dies without a Will or a Trust. However, if decedent has “separate property”, the surviving spouse must divide the inheritance of separate property with certain individuals, typically decedent’s children or parents. However, if decedent did not have any children and had a spouse who predeceased him within 5 years, in some instances that predeceased spouse’s heirs will also be able to inherit a portion of the estate.

Oftentimes in an estate, a dispute will arise as to the proper person or persons to inherit, and commonly court proceedings will be necessary to determine who will inherit all or a portion of the estate. Please see the article “Disputed Inheritance Rights” in this web page for further information with regard to this issue.