Intestacy Rules for Spouses

intestacy rules for spouses

Intestacy rules – how much can spouses inherit?

The intestacy rules now allow a surviving spouse or civil partner to inherit more of their deceased partner’s estate. From February 2020 the amount of the fixed sum was increased.

The statutory legacy

In 2014 the government fixed £250,000 as the amount a spouse or civil partner could receive under the intestacy rules*. The government also pledged to review that amount every 5 years. There should, therefore, have been an increase in 2019 but the introduction of the increase was delayed until February 2020.

The fixed amount is what is known as the ‘statutory legacy’. The statutory legacy applies where a deceased person doesn’t make a Will. It’s payable to a surviving spouse or civil partner. Where there are also surviving children the spousal legacy is £270,000. If there are no children the spouse or partner can receive all of the deceased person’s assets. The surviving spouse/partner will also be entitled to all of the assets if the total value doesn’t exceed the new statutory limit of £270,000 even if there are also surviving children.

Unmarried partners

Unfortunately, you won’t be entitled to anything under the intestacy rules if you are not married or in a civil partnership at the time of your spouse/partner’s death. Making a Will still remains the best way to ensure your loved ones, friends and favourite charities can receive your assets.

Other intestacy problems

The way in which a deceased person’s estate is divided under the intestacy rules is very impersonal and it can be pot luck as to what you might get. For example, if the deceased owned property in their sole name or as tenants in common, the property might have to be shared amongst several members of the family.

The increase in the amount of the statutory legacy is not retrospective. The statutory legacy of £270,000 only applies to deaths occurring from 6th February 2020. Up to that date, the lower amount of £250,000 still applies.


The changes made to the intestacy rules over the last decade do very little to avoid families finding themselves in difficulty when a spouse or parent dies intestate (i.e. without a Will). Although the better solution is for everyone to make a Will even that is not always a successful remedy. A badly prepared Will can cause as many problems as no Will at all.

How can you avoid inheritance problems?

One of the best ways to protect your family from inheritance problems (apart from spending it all before you die!) is to get yourself informed. Having the right information and understanding about the issues involved places you in a much better position to make the right choices.

Our exclusive resources and online training services offer information and practical tools to help with inheritance, trust and probate issues. Businesses and employers find out more here

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