Intestacy rules change in England and Wales

The intestacy rules automatically apply to the distribution of estates where there is no will. There are three different sets of rules, one for England and Wales, a similar set for Northern Ireland and a much more different set for Scotland.

The rules for England and Wales have just been modified slightly, with the change made highlighting an aspect of intestacy of which many are unaware: a surviving spouse or civil partner does always not inherit all of their deceased spouse’s/partner’s estate. From 6 February 2020, the English and Welsh rules state that if the spouse/civil partner of the deceased survives 28 days and the deceased had issue (broadly children and their lineal descendants), then:

  • The surviving spouse would receive:
    • The personal chattels of the deceased (car, clothing, jewellery, etc);
    • £270,000 outright; and
    • One half of the residue of the estate.
  • The issue would receive the other half of the residue.

Up until 5 February 2020, the £270,000 figure was £20,000 lower - £250,000.

It is important to note that intestacy only deals with of married spouses and civil partners and relations. If you live as a couple but are not married or in a civil partnership, intestacy could leave the survivor with nothing.

Th message is clear: if you have not made a will, make one. And if you have made one, make sure you know where it is and that it is up to date.