Will my spouse/civil partner automatically inherit if I die without a will?
It is a common misconception that your spouse or civil partner will automatically inherit the whole of your estate if you die without making a will…
It is a common misconception that your spouse or civil partner will automatically inherit the whole of your estate if you die without making a will (intestate).
When a person dies intestate, their property (the estate) must be shared out according to certain rules. These are called the rules of intestacy (the rules).
Under the rules, if you die intestate leaving a spouse or civil partner and a child or children, your spouse would only automatically be entitled to receive a lump sum of £250,000 (the statutory legacy), your household contents and personal possessions and a 50% share of any remaining assets. The other 50% of the estate will pass outright to any biological children of the deceased in equal shares.
Lizzie was married to Jason and they adopted a daughter called Ruby. Ruby was 8 when Lizzie died. Lizzie died without leaving a will. Her estate is worth £450,000. After Jason inherits his statutory legacy of £250,000 and Lizzie’s personal possessions, the estate that is left is worth £190,000. Jason can have half of this - £95,000. The remaining half will be held in trust for Ruby until she reaches 18.
If you die intestate leaving a spouse but no children, your spouse will automatically inherit the whole of your estate if your spouse survives you by 28 days.
Change to the rules
The government has recently passed a statutory instrument which will increase the statutory legacy that a spouse is entitled to receive on Intestacy from £250,000 to £270,000. This will come into force on 6th February 2020. Whether this goes far enough to ensure that a spouse is protected is open to debate.
As it stands there is no provision under the rules for unmarried partners to inherit anything at all.
Either way, the only way to guarantee that a spouse or unmarried partner is protected is to make a will. If you need any assistance with your estate planning or need to clarify who will inherit from your estate, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the wills, trusts and estates team by calling 0345 073 9900.