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HMRC internal manual

Inheritance Tax Manual

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HM Revenue & Customs
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Succession: intestacy: distributions (England & Wales): surviving spouse or civil partner

The surviving spouse or civil partner’s (IHTM11032) entitlement under an intestacy depends on what other surviving relatives the deceased had at the time of death. These rules were amended for deaths on or after 1 October 2014 by the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014. The distribution rules if the deceased dies leaving a surviving spouse or civil partner are:

For deaths on or after 1 October 2014

Without issue

The surviving spouse or civil partner takes the whole intestate estate.

With issue (children, grandchildren and remoter descendants)

The surviving spouse or civil partner takes the personal chattels, a fixed net sum (statutory legacy) as set out at (IHTM 12122) and an absolute interest in half of the residue. The other half of the residue is left on statutory trusts for the issue.

For deaths before 1 October 2014

Without issue, parent brother sister or issue of brother or sister

The surviving spouse or civil partner takes the whole estate

With issue (children, grandchildren and remoter descendants)

The surviving spouse or civil partner takes the personal chattels, the statutory legacy that applies if there is issue (IHTM12122), (column 1) and a life interest in half the residue

Without issue but with parents brother or sister or issue of brother or sister

The surviving spouse or civil partner takes the personal chattels, the statutory legacy that applies if the deceased dies without issue (IHTM12122), (column 2) and a half share of residue absolutely.

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Lump sum

Under Administration of Estates Act 1925/S47A the surviving spouse or civil partner may opt to receive a lump sum (IHTM35190) rather than a life interest.