Spousal Share

Spousal Share
Spousal Share
Full Overview Of Spousal Share

In inheritance law, the concept of a spousal share is of paramount importance. It pertains to the portion of a deceased individual’s estate that their surviving spouse is legally entitled to receive. At DLS Solicitors, we understand that navigating the intricacies of inheritance and estate planning can be daunting. This comprehensive overview aims to clarify the subject of spousal share, detailing its legal foundation, the factors influencing it, and its practical applications. Our goal is to equip you with the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions and ensure the equitable distribution of assets.

What is a Spousal Share?

A spousal share, sometimes referred to as a statutory share or elective share, represents the portion of an estate that a surviving spouse is entitled to claim upon the death of their partner. This entitlement is designed to provide financial security to the surviving spouse, ensuring they receive a fair share of the deceased’s assets.

Legal Basis

The legal basis for spousal share in the United Kingdom is primarily governed by the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975. This act allows the surviving spouse to apply for financial provision if the will does not adequately provide for them or if the deceased died intestate (without a will). The law recognises the unique financial dependency that often exists between spouses, aiming to prevent undue hardship for the surviving partner.

Determining the Spousal Share

The determination of a spousal share can be influenced by various factors, including the existence of a will, the size of the estate, and the presence of other beneficiaries. Here, we explore the key considerations that come into play.

Intestacy Rules

When an individual dies without a valid will, their estate is distributed according to the rules of intestacy. Under these rules, the surviving spouse is entitled to a significant portion of the estate. The specifics are as follows:

  • No Children: If the deceased leaves no children, the entire estate passes to the surviving spouse.
  • With Children: If the deceased has children, the surviving spouse receives the first £270,000 of the estate, all personal chattels, and half of the remaining estate. The other half is divided equally among the children.

These rules ensure that the surviving spouse is provided for, though the exact distribution can vary based on the size of the estate and the number of children.

Will Provisions

If the deceased left a will, the spousal share is determined by the provisions specified within the document. However, if the will does not adequately provide for the surviving spouse, they may contest the will under the Inheritance Act 1975. The court considers several factors in such cases, including:

  • The financial needs and resources of the surviving spouse.
  • The size and nature of the estate.
  • The obligations and responsibilities of the deceased towards the spouse.
  • The duration of the marriage and the contributions made by the spouse to the family’s welfare.

Jointly Owned Assets

Assets held in joint names, such as joint bank accounts or jointly owned property, typically pass automatically to the surviving spouse by the right of survivorship. These assets do not form part of the deceased’s estate for probate purposes and are not subject to the rules of intestacy or the terms of the will.

Practical Considerations and Case Studies

Case Study 1: Intestate Estate

Consider the case of Mr. Smith, who died intestate, leaving behind a wife, Mrs. Smith, and two children. His estate, valued at £500,000, included a house worth £300,000, savings of £150,000, and personal chattels worth £50,000. Under intestacy rules, Mrs. Smith would receive the first £270,000, the personal chattels, and half of the remaining estate (£115,000). The children would share the other half (£115,000).

Case Study 2: Will Contestation

In another example, Mr. Brown passed away, leaving a will that provided his entire estate to his children from a previous marriage, leaving nothing for his surviving spouse, Mrs. Brown. Feeling inadequately provided for, Mrs. Brown contested the will under the Inheritance Act 1975. The court assessed her financial needs, the size of the estate, and her contributions during the marriage. Ultimately, the court awarded Mrs. Brown a substantial portion of the estate to ensure her financial security.

The Role of DLS Solicitors

At DLS Solicitors, we offer expert guidance and support in matters related to spousal share, whether you are planning your estate, drafting a will, or dealing with the complexities of inheritance disputes. Our services include:

Estate Planning

We assist clients in drafting wills that fairly and clearly reflect their intentions, ensuring that their surviving spouse and other dependents are adequately provided for. Our estate planning services include:

  • Will Drafting: Creating clear and legally sound wills that minimise the risk of disputes.
  • Trust Formation: Establishing trusts to manage and protect assets for the surviving spouse’s and other beneficiaries’ benefit.
  • Tax Planning: Advising strategies to minimise inheritance tax and other financial liabilities.

Contesting a Will

We offer robust representation in will contestation cases for surviving spouses who feel they have not been adequately provided for. Our approach includes:

  • Initial Consultation: Understanding the client’s situation and evaluating the merits of their claim.
  • Evidence Gathering: Collecting necessary documentation and witness statements to support the claim.
  • Legal Representation: Representing clients in negotiations, mediation, and court proceedings to achieve a fair outcome.

Defending Against Claims

For executors or beneficiaries facing a claim from a surviving spouse, we provide expert legal defence. Our services include:

  • Claim Assessment: Evaluating the validity and potential impact of the claim.
  • Strategic Advice: Offering guidance on the best course of action to protect the interests of the estate and other beneficiaries.
  • Litigation Support: Representing clients in court to defend against claims and uphold the terms of the will.

Practical Advice for Surviving Spouses

Understanding Your Rights

It is crucial for surviving spouses to understand their rights and entitlements under the law. If you find yourself in a position where you feel inadequately provided for, seeking legal advice promptly can make a significant difference.

Financial Assessment

Conducting a thorough financial assessment of your needs and resources is essential. This includes evaluating your living expenses, existing debts, and future financial requirements. Such an assessment can provide a solid foundation for any legal claim you might pursue.

Documentation

Gathering all relevant documentation is vital when contesting a will or seeking a spousal share under intestacy rules. This includes financial records, evidence of contributions to the marriage, and any correspondence that supports your claim.

Navigating the complexities of spousal share requires professional legal advice. At DLS Solicitors, we bring a wealth of experience and expertise to help you through every stage of the process, from initial consultation to final resolution. Our approach is tailored to meet your unique needs, ensuring you receive the support and representation necessary to achieve a fair outcome.

Personalised Service

We understand that every situation is unique, and we are committed to providing personalised service to our clients. Whether planning your estate or dealing with an inheritance dispute, we take the time to understand your circumstances and objectives, offering bespoke solutions that align with your goals.

Experienced Representation

Our team of solicitors has extensive experience in handling cases related to spousal share, from straightforward applications to complex disputes. We leverage our deep understanding of inheritance law to advocate effectively on your behalf, whether in negotiations or in court.

Compassionate Support

Dealing with the loss of a spouse is a challenging and emotional experience. At DLS Solicitors, we provide compassionate support throughout the legal process, helping you navigate the complexities of inheritance law with empathy and understanding.

Conclusion

The concept of spousal share is a critical aspect of inheritance law, designed to ensure that surviving spouses are adequately provided for after the death of their partner. Understanding its legal basis, the factors influencing it, and the practical considerations involved is essential for effective estate planning and dispute resolution.

At DLS Solicitors, we are dedicated to providing expert legal guidance and representation in all matters related to spousal share. Whether you are planning your estate, contesting a will, or defending against a claim, our experienced team is here to support you every step of the way. By offering personalised, compassionate, and effective legal services, we strive to achieve the best possible outcomes for our clients.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information or to discuss your specific situation. Our dedicated team is ready to assist you with all your inheritance law needs, ensuring that you navigate the complexities of spousal share with confidence and clarity.

Spousal Share FAQ'S

A spousal share refers to the portion of a deceased person’s estate that their surviving spouse is entitled to receive. This share can be determined by the terms of the deceased’s will or, if there is no will, by the rules of intestacy.

If there is no will, the rules of intestacy apply. The surviving spouse receives:

  • The first £322,000 of the estate (as of 2023) plus personal possessions.
  • Half of the remaining estate if there are surviving children or grandchildren.
  • The entire estate if there are no surviving children or grandchildren.

Property held jointly with a right of survivorship (e.g., joint tenancy property) automatically passes to the surviving spouse and is not included in the spousal share under intestacy rules. The spousal share pertains to the deceased’s solely owned assets.

Yes, under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, a surviving spouse can claim more than the spousal share if the will or intestacy rules do not provide reasonable financial provision. The court will consider the claim based on various factors, including the spouse’s financial needs.

If there is a will, the spousal share is determined by the terms of the will. The will can specify any amount or portion of the estate to the surviving spouse. If the spouse is not adequately provided for, they may still make a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975.

Remarriage of the surviving spouse does not affect their entitlement to the spousal share from their deceased spouse’s estate. However, it can impact future claims on the estate of the new spouse.

Stepchildren are not entitled to a spousal share under the rules of intestacy. However, they may be included in the will. They can also make a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975 if they were financially dependent on the deceased and were not adequately provided for.

Debts and taxes must be paid out of the estate before any distributions are made, including the spousal share. The surviving spouse receives their share after all liabilities have been settled.

A spousal share can be waived if the surviving spouse chooses to renounce their entitlement. This must be done formally, usually through a written document, and can be part of a pre- or post-nuptial agreement.

If the surviving spouse is not satisfied with their share, they can challenge the will or make a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975 for reasonable financial provision. The court will then assess whether the provision made is fair and reasonable based on various factors, including the spouse’s financial needs and the size of the estate.

Disclaimer

This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th July 2024.

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Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

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