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What Happens when Someone Dies without a Will?

What Happens when Someone Dies without a Will?

Find out about the legal consequences of dying without a will.

29th September 2017

When someone dies without a will, they die “intestate”. This has complicated legal consequences that make it hard to fulfil the deceased person’s wishes in regard to their estate. For this reason, it is a good idea to consult with an estate planning lawyer to make sure you have a will that makes appropriate arrangements for your funeral and the distribution of your assets.

What Happens when Someone Dies without a Will?

Before an intestate person’s estate is distributed, an eligible person must apply to the NSW Supreme Court for a grant of Letters of Administration in order to manage the estate. The administrator will be responsible for making funeral arrangements, collecting assets and settling any debts. An eligible person includes a spouse, de facto partner or relative. For more information, check our legal guide on Next of Kin.

The specific distribution of an intestate person’s assets is governed by the relevant state or territory’s legislation. In NSW this is the Succession Act 2006, which determines who the deceased person’s successors are and the portion of the estate that they will receive. Generally speaking, the legislation favours a surviving spouse or de facto partner. If there is none, then the estate will be distributed amongst the deceased person’s children. If there are no children, then any of the deceased person’s relatives may have a claim to the estate.


Ultimately, when someone dies without a will their assets are distributed according the law, rather than what they would have preferred or what might be in the best interests of their surviving relatives. As a result, it is recommended to have a will drafted. Fortunately, LawPath makes it easy to create a customisable and ready will in under 15 minutes.

Ready to make a will? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800 529 728 to learn more about customising legal documents, obtaining a fixed-fee quote from one our network of 750+ expert lawyers or any other legal needs.

Louis Bridle

Louis is a legal intern at Lawpath who is working with the content team to provide accessible guides to legal issues. With an interest in contract and media law, he is completing his Bachelor of Communications and Laws at the University of Technology Sydney.