60% of people die intestate, that is to say they die without having made a will. In this situation the responsibility for administering the estate normally falls to the next of kin, in the following order of precedence:
- Husband or wife
- Sons or daughters (but not stepchildren)
- Brothers or sisters
- Uncles or aunts
If none of the above are alive, then nephews, nieces and cousins become eligible to apply for probate.
If there is no officially recognized instructions on how the estate should be distributed, the rules of intestacy will be applied. This sets down clear guidelines as to who should inherit and what proportion of the estate they should inherit after liabilities have been paid. There are different intestacy rules for different countries and the rules applied are aligned to where the deceased was permanently resident at the time of death.