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Intestacy – No Will

If someone dies without a Will, that person is said to have died ‘intestate’ and his/her estate is distributed according to sections 66 to 75 (Part VI) of the Succession Act 1965, also known as the ‘Rules of Intestacy’. In order to distribute the assets, a grant of letters of administration (the “grant”) is required.

Rules of Intestacy in Ireland

The Rules of Intestacy are briefly summarised out below.

If the deceased is survived by :-

  • spouse/civil partner but no children – spouse/civil partner gets the entire estate
  • spouse/civil partner and children – spouse/civil partner gets two-thirds of the estate, the remaining one-third of the estate is divided equally between children (if a child has already died his/her children take the share of the pre-deceased parent equally between them)
  • parents, no spouse/civil partner and no children – estate divided equally to both parents or entirely to one parent if only one survives.
  • Children and no spouse/civil partner – the estate is divided equally between deceased’s children (as above)
  • brothers and sisters only – the estate is divided equally between the deceased’s siblings. The children of a pre-deceased sibling are entitled to receive that sibling’s share of the estate in equal shares
  • nieces and nephews only – the estate is divided equally between those surviving the deceased
  • other relatives – divided equally between nearest equal relationship. In this case, lineal is preferred over non-linear descendants or ascendants.
  • no relatives – the state (Ireland)

Crucially, apart from adopted children and some children born through the use of donor assisted human reproductive technologies (DAHR)1, only relatives related by blood are entitled to a share of the deceased person’s estate under the Rules of Intestacy. Whilst half-relatives are treated equally2 on intestacy, step-children and step-siblings are not entitled to inherit on intestacy and there is at present no court-relief available to anyone harshly affected by this rule3. However, in Ireland, both marital and non-marital children have equal rights under succession legislation4.

Deceased domiciled outside Ireland

It is important to note that where a person dies domiciled outside of Ireland, Irish Rules of Intestacy will only apply to the distribution of land or buildings (often described as to as ‘immovable property’) located in Ireland owned by the deceased on death. This is also called the ‘lex situs’ rule in private international law.

Where the deceased died domiciled elsewhere, leaving no Will, movable property (ie bank accounts and shares, for example) is distributed according to the rules of the deceased’s country of domicile according to the ‘lex domicilii’ rule.

Therefore, where the deceased had a foreign domicile, owned both immovable and movable property (ie bank accounts or shares, for example) on death, two separate sets of intestacy rules would apply to the distribution of the deceased’s estate.

1Where, once certain criteria have been met in relation to the DAHR procedure, a non-blood related parent will be recognised as a parent in Irish law with all attaching inheritance rights to the child – see s 5 and 9 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015,
2Section 72 of the Succession Act 1965
3Save that a deed of family arrangement could be entered into by all parties entitled to inherit under the Rules of Intestacy. Consent from all parties entitled to inherit from the estate is required for a deed of family arrangement to be effective.
4See Section 3 of the Status of Children Act 1987

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Probate Lawyers Team Profile - Brian Kirwan

Brian Kirwan


Brian qualified as a Solicitor in 2016 and has acquired extensive experience in the area of probate litigation. Brian is particularly experienced in the area of challenging wills in circumstances where a deceased individual has failed in his/her moral duty towards their children.

Probate Lawyers Team Profile - Deirdre Farrell

Deirdre Farrell


Since qualifying as a solicitor in 2012 Deirdre has advised personal representatives and beneficiaries in relation to the administration and distribution of both resident and non-resident estates and related disputes. Deirdre is a tutor on the Law Society of Ireland Probate & Tax PPC 1 course for trainee solicitors.

Probate Lawyers Team Profile - Sharon Scally

Sharon Scally

Founding Partner

Sharon has particular experience advising personal representatives, beneficiaries and trustees in relation to trust and estate disputes with an international aspect. Sharon has been directly involved as adviser in a number of reported High Court cases relating to testamentary capacity and trust issues.

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