Good news for Spouses and Civil Partners

From 6 February 2020 the statutory legacy for spouses and civil partners will rise from £250,000 to £270,000.

The statutory legacy relates to the amount a person can receive from their late spouse or civil partner’s estate if they died without leaving a Will.

There is a common misconception that if a someone dies without a Will their spouse or civil partner will receive all their money and assets. This is not necessarily correct and will depends on who survives the deceased and what family structure they leave behind.

Currently if the deceased is survived by their spouse/civil partner and children then the spouse receives

  1. a statutory legacy of £250,000
  2. the personal chattels (possessions) of the deceased absolutely
  3. the fix net sum absolutely (currently £250,000)
  4. one half of residue absolutely
  5. the remaining half share of residue for the children

If the deceased died leaving a spouse/civil partner, no children but parents or siblings then the statutory legacy increases to £450,000 but the residue is still divided one half for the spouse/civil partner and the other half for the parents or siblings. It can be quite a shock for the surviving spouse/civil partner to have to share the estate in these circumstances and can lead to family friction.

The government have usually been slow to update the statutory legacy but in October 2014 passed legislation that promised to increase the statutory legacy every 5 years in line with the Consumer Prices Index. The next increase was due October 2019 but perhaps the government can be forgiven the slight delay – there was a lot going on late last year!

The table below shows the historical rates for the statutory legacy. As you will see the rates up to 2014 remained stagnant for quite long periods and this led to some unfair situations for surviving spouses/civil partners.

 

Date of deceased’s death Statutory Legacy
1.1.26 to 31.12.52 £1,000
1.1.53 to 31.12.66 £5,000
1.1.67 to 30.6.72 £8,750
1.7.72 to 14.3.77 £15,000
15.3.77 to 28.2.81 £25,000
1.3.81 to 31.5.87 £40,000
1.6.87 to 30.11.93 £75,000
1.12.93 to 31.1.2009 £125,000
1. 2.2009 to 30.9.2014 £250,000

 

The increase in the statutory legacy is good news but can still lead to unfairness when distributing the deceased’s estate. The best advice is to make a Will to ensure that your assets pass to your loved ones in the proportions you want.

It is estimated that two thirds of people die without a Will and this can lead to family arguments as people do not always agree on how the assets should be divided.

Also remember that the statutory legacy only applies to spouses/civil partners. If you are an unmarried couple or not entered into formal civil partnership then you are not entitled to anything under the intestacy rules. There is no such thing as a ‘common law husband or wife’.

The only way to ensure that your assets go where you want is to make a Will. If you require assistance with making a Will please contact Esther Janalli-Brown on 01306 884432 or email ejbrown@meaby.co.uk