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/ 20 Jul 2023

Intestacy rules update: increase in statutory legacy in 2023

Take note of imminent changes coming into effect in England and Wales from 27 July 2023, in relation to The Intestacy Rules. On 5th July the government passed The Administration of Estates Act 1925 (Fixed Net Sum) Order 2023 increasing the current statutory legacy in cases of intestacy from £270,000 to £322,000, everything else remains unchanged.

Rajinder Rai

Senior Associate & Accredited Mediator

Private Client

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Claire Martin


Head of Private Client

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What are the rules of intestacy?

The rules of intestacy are a set of legislative rules which apply when a person dies without a valid Will. They set out who will be responsible for administering an individual’s estate and who will inherit.

If you die without making a valid Will the order of priority taking effect is as follows: spouse, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts/uncles, then ultimately the Crown.

In today’s world, it is not unusual for people to divorce, have second families, or choose to cohabit rather than enter a civil partnership or marriage. This can lead to distant family members inheriting in place of partners, friends or charities if a valid Will is not in place. Due to this and their tax inefficiency, the rules are regularly criticised. See our previous article outlining what happens if you don’t have a valid Will in 2023.

What is the statutory legacy?

The statutory legacy is the sum the surviving spouse will inherit if the deceased dies without a valid Will leaving behind a surviving spouse or civil partner and children. It is not the case as so commonly thought that the spouse simply inherits everything.

Whilst the rules are complex, in the first instance they provide:-

1. The whole Estate will pass to your surviving spouse or civil partner where there are no children.

2. Where you leave children,

  • your spouse or civil partner first receives a statutory legacy. The sum of this legacy will be increased from £270,000 to £322,000 on 27 July 2023.
  • your spouse or civil partner will also receive your personal possession.
  • your spouse or civil partner will receive 50% of the remainder of your estate.
  • Your children will receive the other 50% of the remainder of your Estate, divided equally between them. If any children are under 18 their inheritance will be held in a Trust.

3. Adopted children will benefit from their adopted parents’ estates but not from their biological families estates under the rules.

4. Your children will inherit your estate equally between them if you are mor married or in a civil partnership on your death.

5. No provision is made for siblings and parents of someone married with no children.

What does this mean for you?

This increase in the Statutory Legacy sum means your spouse will receive a far higher sum from your estate before your children receive their share.

This also means that if you are cohabiting with your partner or view yourself as a ‘common law spouse/civil partner’, you still have no automatic right to inherit their Estate regardless of the time spent cohabiting with them, or even where you had children together. See our article on Inheritance Rights of Unmarried Couples.

The rules are complicated so you should obtain legal advice to find out your position if you think you should inherit from the estate of someone who has died. If you do not inherit under the rules depending on the circumstances you may still have a claim against the estate, so again early advice is recommended.

What can you do?

The simplest and most effective way to protect your family’s future is to make a valid Will. This way you can actually stipulate who you wish to inherit your Estate rather than leaving it vulnerable for other individuals to make a Claim on a moral, or other basis.

Our specialist Private Client lawyers can offer advice on the best way of giving effect to your wishes. Once your Will has been drawn up, the original will be stored safely in our office free of charge so you always know where it is should you want to make any changes.

Contact us today using the form below to find out more.

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