Succession rights following a separation/divorce/dissolution
Succession relates to the inheritance of a person's property on their death. It is governed by the Succession Act 1965. The Act gives the surviving spouse/civil partner an automatic right to a share in the estate of their deceased spouse/civil partner. The share to which the spouse/civil partner is entitled is often called “a legal right share”.
The surviving spouse/civil partner is legally entitled to the appropriate share regardless of the actual terms of the will. The fact that the parties may have lived apart for many years does not of itself affect their entitlements under the Act.
Succession rights can be renounced voluntarily by either or both spouses/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.
A divorced spouse or a civil partner whose civil partnership has been dissolved can make an application to court seeking a share of the estate of their former spouse/civil partner, provided that the application is made within six months of the date of the Grant of Probate or Administration and the divorced spouse/civil partner has not remarried or entered into a new civil partnership.
Further information on succession rights is available in our document on what happens the deceased's estate.