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Separation and Divorce

Succession rights can be renounced voluntarily by either or both spouses or civil partners in a separation agreement. In granting a decree of judicial separation, a court can extinguish a spouse's succession rights if it is satisfied that adequate provision exists for the spouse whose rights are being extinguished.

Once a decree of divorce/dissolution is granted, the parties are no longer married or in a civil partnership, and succession rights are automatically extinguished.


The legal right share

If you have left a will, and your spouse or civil partner has never renounced or given up their rights to your estate, then they are entitled to a legal right share of your estate. This legal right share is:

  • half of the estate if you do not have children
  • one-third of the estate if you do have children

Your spouse/civil partner does not have to go to court to get this share, as your executor must give this share where applicable.

If you leave a gift to your spouse or civil partner in your will, they can choose to accept the gift instead of their legal right share or they can insist on their legal right share (and the specific gift as part of that legal right share, if it is of less value that the legal right share).

When the legal right share does not apply

A spouse or civil partner can give up their rights to the legal right share. This can be part of an agreement before marriage or civil partnership or the spouse or civil partner can give up their rights to benefit their children or other named beneficiaries.

It is normally advised that a spouse or civil partner get independent legal advice if renouncing their legal right share.

The legal right share can be lost where the spouse or civil partner is:

  • convicted of the murder, manslaughter or attempted murder of the deceased person
  • convicted of an offence against the deceased person or a child that carries a sentence of more than 2 years

Cases where there is no will

If you die without leaving a will, then your estate will be distributed in accordance with the law of succession.

This also happens:

  • where the will is not valid
  • if the will has been set aside by the courts

The order in which your estate is distributed in these cases is set out in the Succession Act 1965.

If you are survived by:

  • a spouse or civil partner but no children (or grandchildren): your spouse or civil partner gets the entire estate.
  • a spouse or civil partner and children: your spouse/civil partner gets two-thirds of your estate and the remaining one-third is divided equally among your children. If one of your children has died, that share goes to his/her children
  • children, but no spouse or civil partner: your estate is divided equally among your children (or their children)
  • parents, but no spouse, civil partner or children: your estate is divided equally between your parents or given entirely to one parent if only one is living
  • brothers and sisters only: your estate is shared equally among them, with the children of a deceased brother or sister taking his/her share
  • nieces and nephews only: your estate is divided equally among those surviving
  • other relatives only: your estate is divided equally between the nearest equal relations
  • no relatives: your estate goes to the State

For all beneficiaries under the will - Capital Gains Tax may apply.




Last update: 08/04/2022

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