Unsure? Does Your Spouse Automatically Inherit Your Estate?

Will your Spouse Automatically Inherit

Does Your Spouse Automatically InheritAre you unsure about what happens to your estate after you pass away? Do you wonder if your spouse will automatically inherit everything?

Understanding estate inheritance in the UK can be a complex and confusing topic, but it is crucial to have a clear understanding of the rules and regulations surrounding this matter. In this article, we will delve into the question of whether your spouse automatically inherits your estate  and provide you with valuable insights to help you navigate through this often overlooked aspect of estate planning.

By the end, hopefully you will have a better understanding of the legal framework and potential scenarios that may arise, empowering you to make informed decisions and ensure the financial security of your loved ones. So, let’s dive in and unravel the mysteries of estate inheritance!

The Role of a Will in Estate Inheritance

When it comes to estate inheritance in the UK, having a will is crucial. A will is a legal document that specifies how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. It allows you to have control over who inherits your estate and in what proportions.

Without a will, your estate will be subject to the rules of intestate succession, which we will discuss in the next section. Having a will ensures that your wishes are respected and that your loved ones are taken care of according to your instructions. It also simplifies the probate process, making it easier for your assets to be distributed and minimising the potential for disputes among family members.

Therefore, it is highly recommended to consult with a solicitor or a professional will writer to draft a comprehensive and legally binding will that reflects your intentions.

Intestate Succession: What Happens When There Is No Will

If you pass away without a will, your estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy. These rules determine how your assets will be divided among your surviving relatives, including your spouse. In the absence of a will, the distribution of your estate will follow a predetermined order, starting with your spouse and children, followed by other blood relatives.

Contrary to popular belief, your spouse does not automatically inherit everything if you die intestate. The amount your spouse will inherit depends on several factors, including the value of your estate and whether you have children. If you have children, your spouse will inherit the first £270,000* of your estate, all your personal belonging and one half of the remainder.

*This amount know as the Statutory Legacy is set to increase to £322,000 from 26th July 2023.

The other half will be divided equally among your children. In this scenario children is defined as biological or adopted, it does not include step-children.  If a son or daughter has already died, their children will inherit in their place.

If you have never had any children, your spouse will inherit the entire estate. However, it is important to note that if you are not legally married or in a civil partnership, the rules of intestate succession will not apply, and your partner will have no automatic right to inherit your estate. To ensure that your partner is provided for after your death, it is crucial to have a valid will in place.

Jointly held assets pass by survivorship regardless of a Will or the rules of intestacy. For example if a married couple’s home in joint names and one has assets over £270,000 the home would firstly go to the surviving spouse and the remainder split as above.

This useful intestacy tool from GOV.UK shows who will inherit in specific circumstances.

Understanding the Concept of ‘Spousal Inheritance’

In the context of estate inheritance, ‘spousal inheritance’ refers to the rights and entitlements that a surviving spouse has when their partner passes away. These rights and entitlements vary depending on whether there is a will or if the estate is subject to intestate succession.

When a will is in place, the surviving spouse’s inheritance will be determined by the provisions of the will. The will may specify that the surviving spouse inherits the entire estate, a specific portion of the estate, or certain assets. It is important to note that a will can be challenged, so it is crucial to ensure that your will is valid, up to date, and reflects your intentions.

In cases where there is no will, the surviving spouse’s inheritance will be determined by the rules of intestate succession, as mentioned earlier. The amount the surviving spouse will inherit depends on whether there are children and the value of the estate.

It is worth noting that the rules of intestate succession may not always provide adequate financial security for the surviving spouse, especially if there are children from a previous relationship or other dependents. Therefore, having a valid will is essential to ensure that your spouse is provided for and protected.

The Importance of Updating Your Will

As mentioned earlier, having a will is essential to ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes. However, it is equally important to regularly review and update your will to reflect any changes in your circumstances or intentions.

Life is full of changes, and failing to update your will can have unintended consequences. For example,  if you have acquired new assets or have children, it is crucial to update your will to include them and ensure that your surviving spouse and other loved ones are provided for.

Regularly reviewing and updating your will not only ensures that your estate plan remains up to date but also provides peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be respected and your loved ones will be taken care of after your death. It is advisable to review your will at least every five years or whenever significant life events occur.

Seeking Legal Advice for Estate Planning

Estate planning, including will writing and understanding estate inheritance, can be a complex and daunting process. To ensure that your estate plan is comprehensive, legally sound, and reflects your intentions, it is highly recommended to seek professional legal advice.

At Harries Watkins Jones Wills & Probate, we can guide you through the intricacies of estate planning, help you understand the relevant laws and regulations, and assist you in drafting a valid will. We can also provide valuable insights and recommendations based on your specific circumstances, ensuring that your estate plan addresses all relevant aspects, including spousal inheritance.

While it may be tempting to rely on DIY will kits or online will writing services, it is important to remember that estate planning is a highly specialised area, and even minor errors or omissions can have significant consequences. By consulting with a professional, you can have peace of mind knowing that your estate plan is legally sound, tailored to your needs, and provides for the financial security of your loved ones, including your spouse.

Contact us today for estate planning and will writing advice.


The information provided is of a general nature. It is not a substitute for specific advice in your own circumstances. You are recommended to obtain specific professional advice from an appropriate professional before you take any action or refrain from action. Whilst we endeavour to use reasonable efforts to furnish accurate, complete, reliable, error free and up-to-date information, we do not warrant that it is such. We and our associates disclaim all warranties. The information can only provide an overview of the regulations in force at the date of publication, and no action should be taken without consulting the detailed legislation or seeking professional advice.

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