Does my spouse automatically inherit everything when I die?

The answer very much depends on whether you have children and whether your spouse had a valid will. That’s because if there is no will, the so-called rules of intestacy will be applied to your estate. Under these provisions your spouse will not always inherit everything. We look at how the rules affect surviving spouses below, discussing a change made in 2023 to the amount a spouse automatically inherits in larger estates. We will also explain why making a will is the best way to ensure that – when you die – your assets are divided in accordance with your wishes.

When your spouse does not make a Will – The Intestacy Rules

Around half of the adult population of the UK do not have a will so the intestacy rules have a huge impact on the way estates are administered. At Gamlins Solicitors LLP our wills and probate solicitors  work with families across North Wales. We see first-hand some of the complications that crop up when the intestacy provisions are applied. Briefly, the rules applicable to married couples are as follows:

  • If you do not have children, your spouse inherits everything automatically.
  • If you have children everything up to £322,00 passes to the surviving spouse. Any assets above the £322,000 threshold are divided 50/50 between the spouse and the children.

The figure of £322,000 is known as the ‘statutory legacy’ and is periodically reviewed. It was last raised in July 2023 in line with inflation. In our view this is a welcome change. If you consider that average house price in Wales hovers around the £250,000 mark it would not be unusual that a family home – if owned solely by a deceased spouse – would have to be sold to satisfy any entitlement children may have to a share of an estate under the intestacy rules. The rise to £322,00 is likely to reduce the occasions when this might be a possibility.

Having said this, the rise in the statutory legacy alone should not be an encouragement to put off making a will.

Should I make a Will?

We encourage all our clients to make a will, and the reasons for doing so have been well-rehearsed. Above all, making a will ensures people you know and trust can act as your executors and provides you with the peace of mind that your assets will be shared out among your loved ones in precisely the way you want.

It is possible to make a will without coming to see a solicitor. However by asking for professional guidance you can be guaranteed that:

  • Your documentation will be drafted accurately, witnessed and executed –reducing the possibility that your will might be rejected by the Probate Office and that you may be deemed as having died intestate.
  • Your instructions will be precisely recorded – so that gifts in your will would not fail because certain assets are not clearly identifiable.

Can I reduce Inheritance Tax?

As highly trained professionals we are also able to provide advice on ways to minimise the inheritance tax that your family might have to pay after your death. This might include advising you to make gifts to charity in your will, or pointing out how you can deal with business and other assets in a tax efficient manner. If appropriate we can help you create trusts in your will (for example, if you are leaving a large share of your estate to a minor) and explain how you can make gifts during your lifetime to reduce the portion of your estate that will be subject to inheritance tax.

Avoiding challenges to your Will

We work hard to ensure your will is legally watertight – challenges to wills, particularly homemade, DIY documents are on the increase. We can advise you on how your will might be challenged by family members or anyone who is financially dependent on you and take steps to reduce this possibility. Measures include:

  • Making a full record of your motivations for leaving assets in the way you have
  • Confirming your understanding of the contents of your will
  • Establishing that no one has put any pressure or undue influence on you to leave your estate in a particular way


For a limited number of estates the intestacy rules are perfectly adequate. In many cases however they result in a deceased’s estate being divided in a way that he or she would not have wanted. The 2023 increase in the amount a surviving spouse receives automatically under the intestacy rules does not get around some of the unintended consequences of the intestacy rules. Getting a will drafted by a solicitor is the best way to ensure you have a document that will stand up to any scrutiny, is less likely to be challenged and deals with your assets in the most tax efficient way.

Contact Us

If a family member or loved one has died without a will and you need advice, please call us on 01492 860420 or email  Alternatively if you would like to discuss making a will with one of our solicitors, you can arrange an appointment at the Gamlins Solicitors LLP branch that is closest to you. We can also arrange a home appointment if more convenient.

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