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Intestacy rule change allows surviving spouse to inherit larger share

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

The Government will increase the statutory legacy sum that can be left to a surviving spouse if no will was drafted. However, individuals are urged to draw up a will to ensure their wishes are realised.

Anyone who passes away without making a will is considered to have died “intestate”. Under these circumstances, there are rules in place which outline who can inherit and in what order, as well as limits to the amount that can be passed on.

If someone who was in a marriage or civil partnership dies and there are no children, then the surviving spouse will automatically gain the full estate.

However, where children are involved, there are special provisions which cater both to offspring and the surviving spouse.

Currently in England and Wales, the surviving spouse inherits the first £270,000, plus half of the remaining estate with the other half split between children.

However, from tomorrow (Wednesday 26 July), the Statutory Legacy fixed net sum will increase from £270,000 to £322,000.

This means that the spouse who is left behind is entitled to £322,000, plus half of the remaining estate with the other half to be split equally between children.

But there is no statutory provision in the event of a death without a will for cohabiting or unmarried couples, stepchildren or any other chosen person such as a friend who you would prefer to inherit the proceeds from your estate.

If could also mean that a spouse that you separated from, even years ago, could still receive all or part of your assets left behind.

Government move welcomed

Ian Bond, the lifestyle and estate planning partner at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Where a person dies in England and Wales without a valid will in place then, under the rules of intestacy, the estate of the deceased is distributed in a specific way depending on who survives, how they are related to the deceased and how many individuals there are.

“The order of priority for who inherits is: spouse or civil partner, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts/uncles. The rules tend not to take into account modern relationships and make no provisions for cohabitees, stepchildren, friends, or favoured charities.”

Bond added this increase is good news for people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and rising inflation.

However he added: “The best way to be certain about how your estate is distributed to your family, friends and favoured charities when you die is by making a will.”

Sabrina D’Acri Davies, solicitor, wills and estate planning at Hugh James, said: “The Government’s change to the statutory legacy is a glimmer of hope for bereaved spouses or civil partners during the current cost-of-living crisis.

“However, with the increase in property prices, loved ones may still find themselves in a difficult situation when it comes to their ownership of the matrimonial home, which could possibly be shared with children of the deceased.”

“The Government’s change reiterates the importance of why people should make a will, to provide security for their loved ones.”