The £500,000 estate of recently deceased UK actress and comedienne Caroline Aherne is to be inherited entirely by her mother under Government intestacy rules, after she failed to make a will.

Ms Aherne, who died aged 52 at her home in Cheshire following a two-year battle with lung cancer, was unmarried and had no children at the point of her death.

Due to this and the absence of a recognised will, The Royle Family star’s estate of £504,060 will be inherited entirely by her mother Mary, as dictated by intestacy rules.

The estate of any UK resident can face a similar fate if an air-tight, recognised will is not in place at the point of their death. Under the rules of intestacy, only those who are married or in a civil partnership will automatically inherit their partner’s assets – meaning that for cohabiting couples, writing a will is particularly important.

For unmarried couples without a will, the estate will usually go to relatives. Children come first, followed by grand-children and great-grandchildren – but if the deceased has no dependents such as these, as in Caroline Aherne’s case, parents are next in line.

If the deceased has no surviving relatives, the entire estate will go to the Crown.

Statistics publicised by Citizens Advice earlier this year suggest that the number of people passing away without a will in the UK has more than doubled over the last five years – despite the fact that an air-tight will can be drawn up by seeking specialist legal advice.