What are the Rules of Intestacy?
When an individual passes away without leaving a valid Will, their estate will be distributed under certain legislative rules, these are known as the rules of intestacy. The rules of intestacy set out who will be responsible for administering the deceased’s estate and also direct how estates are to be distributed. The exact distribution that takes place will depend on the value of the estate and which family members who have survived the deceased.
Under the rules of intestacy, only married couples, civil partners, and certain closes relatives can inherit anything from the estate of the deceased.
Notably, the intestacy rules do not allow for cohabiting partners or non-family members to inherit anything from the deceased’s estate. This means that if the deceased made a Will, but it was later found to be invalid, the rules of intestacy would not necessarily match the deceased’s wishes.
What is the Statutory Legacy?
Under the rules of intestacy, the spouse or civil partner of the deceased who died leaving children will inherit a fixed sum known as the ‘statutory legacy.’ The statutory legacy is a sum of money left to a spouse or civil partner, and they will receive this before the remainder of the estate is then distributed.
In summary, the spouse or civil partner of the deceased will inherit the following where the rules of intestacy are applied:
- The personal belongings of the deceased;
- The statutory legacy which is a fixed sum of £322,000; and
- Half of the funds which remain once the statutory legacy has been paid to the spouse/civil partner, with the other half being shared equally by all surviving children.
In July 2023, the statutory legacy was increased to £322,000. The statutory legacy was previously fixed at £270,000, but with rising inflation, it has been increased to ensure it remains in line with the Consumer Price Index.
The rules of intestacy are antiquated, and do not take into consideration modern family dynamics. It is therefore of paramount importance that you make a valid Will to ensure that your estate is distributed in accordance with your wishes, rather than those provided for by the rules of intestacy.