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Update on the Intestacy Rules

View profile for Joseph Stoehr
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If someone dies without a will (or without one that is valid), the intestacy rules dictate how much of their estate their partner, children and other relatives inherit.

Legislation passed yesterday – the Administration of Estates Act 1925 (Fixed Net Sum) Order 2020 – increased the legacy that a person would receive from their spouse/civil partner’s estate if they passed away without a will from a maximum of £250,000 to £270,000 from 6 February 2020.  The figure is roughly calculated by reference to the increase in the consumer prices index since the last increase in 2014.

If the deceased has children then, after the legacy to the surviving spouse/civil partner, the remainder of the estate would then ordinarily be split 50% to the surviving spouse/civil partner and 50% to the deceased’s children. 

For many families, this is not ideal and can cause significant issues that could have been avoided if legal advice had been sought and an appropriate will drafted to ensure a person’s estate is inherited as they wish.

The intestacy rules are almost always inappropriate for unmarried couples, especially those living together or otherwise financially intertwined.  An unmarried partner would not stand to inherit any part of the other’s estate. The estate would instead be inherited by the deceased’s children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, nephews/nieces etc, roughly in that order of priority. That can cause a significant issue for the surviving partner which, again, can be avoided with a carefully prepared will.

If the intestacy rules do not make reasonable provision for a spouse/civil partner or anyone who is financially dependent on the deceased, then a claim may be brought against the deceased’s estate. Such claims are notoriously time-consuming, costly and distressing for those involved.