The government has announced that the statutory legacy (also known as ‘the fixed sum’) will increase to £322,000 with effect from 26 July 2023.
What is the statutory legacy?
The statutory legacy is relevant when an individual dies intestate (in other words, without a valid Will in place) and leaves behind:
In this scenario, the intestacy rules apply. These dictate that various personal possessions from the estate are passed to the surviving spouse or civil partner, together with a sum up to the value of £270,000. Where the net estate exceeds this amount, the excess is divided as to 50% for the surviving spouse or civil partner and as to the remaining 50% held on statutory trusts for issue (i.e. equally divided between children in most cases). Where the net estate value falls below the statutory legacy amount, this reduced figure forms the statutory legacy.
From 26 July 2023, the statutory legacy figure will change from £270,000 to £322,000, meaning that more will pass to the surviving spouse or civil partner on death.
The importance of a Will…
Many couples (whether married, in a civil partnership or unmarried) have specific wishes when it comes to the beneficiaries of their estate. Those wishes might be that their partner should receive their full estate, or it might be that their children should receive a significant share of the estate. In most cases, the intestacy rules do not fully reflect those wishes.
It is also important to note that unmarried partners have no entitlement under the intestacy rules, even if they lived with the deceased as if they were married. In this situation, an unmarried partner can bring a claim against the estate, but this can be a lengthy and expensive process. Whilst the statutory legacy has been reviewed and increased, there has been no change by the government to include unmarried partners in the list of beneficiaries entitled on an intestacy.
Although the recent increase to the Statutory Legacy is good news, it is clear that the Intestacy Rules can result in some very unfair and disadvantageous results when a person dies. The simple solution is to die leaving a valid Will as this is the only way that a person can ensure that their wishes are accurately reflected and that their estate passes to their chosen beneficiaries.
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