UK government raises statutory legacy in England and Wales

Father and daughter at a beachThe UK government laid a statutory instrument on 15 January 2020, which increases the net sum that a surviving spouse or civil partner is entitled to receive in England and Wales where a person dies intestate leaving issue (children).

The new legacy has been increased from GBP250,000 to GBP270,000, and will come into force on 6 February. The formal title is the Administration of Estates Act 1925 (Fixed Net Sum) Order 2020.

Under the rules of intestacy, if there are no children, then the spouse or civil partner will inherit the whole estate. However, if there are children, then the spouse or civil partner will be entitled to all of the deceased’s personal property, the first GBP270,000 of the estate and 50 per cent of the remainder, leaving 50 per cent to be divided equally between the children.

How was the calculation made?

The government reviews the amount of the statutory legacy every five years and increases it in line with the Consumer Price Index.

When calculating the increase, the Lord Chancellor followed the standard methodology in Schedule 1A to the 1925 Act (following the amendments brought in by the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014). This involved calculating and then applying the change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) from the ‘base month’ (October 2014) to the ‘current month’ – the most recent CPI figure available at the time of fixing the sum (November 2019, published by the Office for National Statistics on 18 December 2019). This equated to an increase of 8.1 per cent of the GBP250,000 sum, with the figure then rounded to the nearest thousand (as required by the Act), which resulted in the increase of GBP20,000.

STEP welcomes the increase to the fixed legacy, although we would caution that it is prudent not to rely on the rules of intestacy, and to make and review a will regularly.

Emily Deane TEP, STEP Technical Counsel