Civil partnership and inheritance

Information

Your civil status affects your rights to inherit from your spouse/partner. Civil partners have the same legal right to inherit as spouses and the same rights on intestacy. A will is automatically revoked when you register a civil partnership unless it was made in contemplation of that registration. A bequest in a will to a person who is a witness to the will or to that person’s civil partner is void.

Rules

If you are not in a civil partnership, you may only inherit from your partner if you are left a bequest in a valid will. However, a civil partner is entitled to what is called a "legal right share" of their deceased civil partner's estate even if:

  • there is no will
  • the will is invalid
  • there is a valid will, but it leaves little or nothing to the surviving civil partner.

The civil status of the deceased person may also indirectly affect the inheritance rights of his/her children.

Civil Partner's inheritance rights

The amount of the surviving civil partner's legal right share depends on two factors:

  • whether or not there is a valid will
  • whether or not the deceased civil partner has any children.

You are entitled to the whole estate if:

  • there is no will or the will is invalid, and
  • the deceased civil partner has no children or grandchildren.

You are entitled to two-thirds of the estate if:

  • there is no valid will, and
  • the deceased civil partner has children or grandchildren.

You are entitled to one-half of the estate if:

  • there is a valid will, and
  • the deceased civil partner has no children or grandchildren.

You are entitled to one-third of the estate if:

  • there is a valid will, and
  • the deceased civil partner has children or grandchildren.

If you are the surviving civil partner, you must be informed of this right and should apply for your legal right share as soon as possible. You may require that the shared home be given to you in satisfaction of your legal right share, even if the home was left to another person under the will. If the shared home is worth more than the legal right share, you will normally have to pay the difference into the deceased's estate. However, in cases of hardship, you may apply to the court to have the dwelling house given to you either without paying the difference or by paying such sum as the court thinks reasonable.

Children's inheritance rights

Children have a right to inherit from their biological parents. As the surviving civil partner's children are not the biological children of the deceased, they do not have a right to inherit from the deceased civil partner.

Children's inheritance rights may be affected by their deceased parent's civil status.

The children (minor and adult) are entitled to the entire estate divided equally between them if:

  • there is no will or the will is invalid, and
  • the deceased parent is not in a civil partnership or his/her civil partner is already dead.

But the children are only entitled to one-third of the estate divided equally between them if:

  • there is no valid will or the will is invalid, and
  • the deceased parent is in a civil partnership and is survived by his/her civil partner.

Children have no absolute right to inherit their parent's estate if the deceased parent has made a valid will. However, if a child considers that he/she has not been adequately provided for, he/she may make an application to court. The child need not be a minor or be dependent in order to use this procedure. The court has to decide if the parent has "failed in his moral duty to make proper provision for the child in accordance with his means".

Each case is decided on its merits and the court looks at the situation from the point of view of a "prudent and just" parent. Should the court order that some provision be made for a child or children from the estate of the deceased, such an order can reduce the entitlement of the surviving civil partner to a legal right share.

Anyone considering challenging a will on these grounds should get legal opinion before applying to the court.

Marital status and inheritance rights

You can find information on how marriage affects inheritance in our document on marital status and inheritance.

Page edited: 3 May 2016