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If my daughter dies will my son-in-law inherit my estate?

(Last Updated: 01/05/2024)
9 min read
Key Takeaways
  • If your child passes away before you, their partner would not be able to inherit anything from your estate unless they are named as a beneficiary in your Will or trust.
  • Top Tip: Create an estate plan or set up a trust as part of a Will as soon as possible to protect your assets.
  • If your child dies after inheriting your estate, their assets will be disbursed according to their own Will, which may well make their spouse a beneficiary. If they die without a Will, by intestate law, everything goes to their legal spouse.
  • Another way to protect your inheritance is to encourage your child to draft a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement with their partner.

Questions about inheritance naturally arise when someone passes away, and specifically, you might wonder whether in-laws have any rights to the assets of the deceased.

Typically, the laws surrounding these situations prioritise spouses, children, and other blood relatives ahead of anyone else.

However, the way an inherited estate is managed will establish whether an in-law can receive assets from it.

We recommend using a financial advisor to help create an estate plan to best meet your needs and goals.

Inheritance rules for in-laws

Generally, the heir(s) in an inheritance is directly related to the deceased person. This could be through marriage, blood, or adoption.

The usual order of priority for people who can inherit from someone if there is no Will or the Will is overruled:

  • Spouse(s)
  • Children
  • Siblings
  • Parents
  • Grandchildren
  • Aunts and Uncles
  • Cousins

All the personal property of the deceased is distributed according to these priorities, including to the deceased's children if applicable.

Whilst there is no specific provision for an in-law, they can receive part of an estate later if they are married to a direct beneficiary.

If you’d like an in-law to inherit from your estate, this is possible if it’s included in your Will with specific instructions. A trust can also be created to pass assets onto them.

Trusts give you an extra layer of control when leaving money to in-laws and even blood relations, as you can set the conditions under which they receive the inheritance.

Can an in-law inherit from you directly?

It’s possible that an in-law could receive part of your estate indirectly through their spouse, including money in any joint bank account that you may have had.

These financial assets are part of what could be inherited by the surviving spouse or surviving children, impacting what an in-law might indirectly receive.

It is quite common for money inherited by a child from a parent's estate to be passed on again to the child's spouse if the child's spouse survives them.

For your child to protect their inheritance from their spouse, they should not keep it in shared bank accounts or invest it into a joint marital asset. Read more in inheriting a House After Death?

Inheritance laws automatically defer to spouses whether there is a Will in place or not. Even if your child did have a Will before passing, their spouse cannot be excluded from inheriting funds from bank accounts unless said spouse gives their written permission.

If your child passes away before you, your in-law can inherit assets that belonged to their spouse. However, they would not be able to inherit anything from you unless you have included them specifically in your Will or granted them part of your estate through a trust.

A widow mourns next to a grave. Learn what happens with a will when someone dies with SAM Conveyancing

The Inheritance Act 1975

When a person dies, The Inheritance Act 1975 may affect how their estate is distributed, especially in the absence of a Will.

The Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 means that certain sets of people can bring forward a claim for reasonable financial provision from a deceased’s estate.

A claim can only be made on the basis that the individual falls into a class of people that the deceased’s assets or estate would provide for, and where the Will or rules of intestacy do not provide once assets are distributed.

A reasonable financial provision definition is dependent on the class of person bringing the claim.

What is a reasonable financial provision?

A claim must be reasonable to expect the deceased to meet your living costs. For example, if you were financially dependent on the deceased when they were alive, it can be considered fair to expect that the arrangement continues even after their death.

The following class of people can bring a claim forward:

  • The spouse or civil partner of the deceased.
  • A former spouse or civil partner of the deceased who has not formed another marriage or civil partnership.
  • A child of the deceased.
  • Any person treated by the deceased as a child of the family.
  • Any person was wholly or partly financially maintained by the deceased.
  • A person living with the deceased as a cohabitant for at least two years before the death.

Two men overlooking an intestacy rules document. SAM Conveyancing answers the question 'if someone dies without a will what happens to their money?'

If a person brings a claim forward as a spouse or civil partner, they can seek a reasonable financial provision regardless of the applicant’s needs.

Every other class of qualifying applicants can only seek financial provisions to suit their reasonable maintenance. The definition of what is reasonable is at the Court’s discretion.

The above classes of people do not specifically include an in-law to the deceased. Depending on the nature of the relationship, the in-law could qualify as a person who was treated by the deceased as a child of the family.

Concerned about who might be able to inherit from you?

Contact us for a FREE consultation with no obligation to move forward with a paid service. Our panel of solicitors can oversee the probate of an estate. They can also help with Wills.

  • Will my in-law inherit my estate?
  • How can I set up a trust?
  • I don't have a Will, should I get one?
  • Can I plan my estate?

What is a child entitled to when a parent dies without a Will? The intestacy rules

When you die without a Will, your estate (property, possessions and money) is shared according to certain rules - and if no one falls under the rules, then the estate goes to the Crown.

These are called intestacy rules and anyone who dies without a Will is called an intestate person.

There are two classifications of passing away without a Will if you have children:

  • If you’re married or in a civil partnership.
  • If you’re unmarried or not in a civil partnership.

If you are married or in a civil partnership, your spouse or partner will inherit everything up to £270,000. Above that, the total is divided equally in half between the spouse/partner and any children once they reach 18 years of age.

If you are unmarried or not in a civil partnership, the children of the deceased will inherit the full estate in equal shares if they are over 18 or receive shares of the full estate when they turn 18.

How to protect inheritance from in-laws

Some people might want to leave part of their estate to a son or daughter-in-law, but others will want to wholly exclude them. This could be due to a strained relationship, or the belief that the in-law could misuse any assets that they might inherit.

One of the best ways to protect your inheritance from an in-law is to establish a trust. For example, you might create a family trust which allows you to leave assets to family members. Trusts can specify that anyone who is not a blood relative is excluded from receiving assets.

Another way to protect your inheritance is to encourage your child to draft a prenuptial agreement with their partner.

Marriage or civil partnership prenuptial/postnuptial

A prenup can include clauses to specify that assets passed down to your child should be managed in a certain way.

If they’re already married, a postnuptial agreement could be considered an alternative. This agreement can be used to decide what happens to any assets inherited from you should they end up getting divorced.

Proper estate planning is essential in helping you and your heirs avoid conflicts or issues over who inherits what. Talk to a financial advisor to help develop a plan that suits your needs.

A probate process document with a pen and glasses laid out on the paper. SAM Conveyancing can help if you wonder 'what happens to my child if i die without a will?'

What is estate planning?

An estate is all property owned by the deceased person before being distributed by intestacy laws, a Will, or a trust.

Estate planning is the preparation for transferring assets to your beneficiaries or next of kin when you pass away.

This process involves appointing a personal representative who is responsible for managing and distributing the estate's assets according to the deceased's wishes or intestacy rules. This ensures the safety of money held in an executorship account.

An estate plan details your total assets and how you would like these assets to be managed, but in an official declaration within a legal document.

An individual’s estate will usually include assets such as:

  • Property
  • Investments
  • Vehicles
  • Antiques
  • Life insurance or assurance policies
  • Pensions
  • Savings
  • Debt

If you have not written a Will before you pass or become incapacitated, you are declared to have died ‘intestate’.

In this situation, your estate would be divided and distributed according to legal conditions of intestacy. It takes away any personal decisions that you otherwise would have made with a Will.

If you’re concerned about what an in-law might be able to inherit from you, we can get you in contact with a financial advisor.

If you have any questions about if an in-law can inherit your estate, we can help.

Contact us to get referred to a specialist.

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