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 or civil partner an automatic right to a share in the estate of their deceased spouse or civil partner. The share to which the spouse or civil partner is entitled is often called “a legal right share”.
The surviving spouse or 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 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.
A divorced spouse, or a civil partner whose civil partnership has been dissolved, may be able to make an application to court seeking a share of the estate of their former spouse or civil partner, provided that the application is made within 6 months of the date of the Grant of Probate or Administration and the divorced spouse or civil partner has not remarried or entered into a new civil partnership. The application will only be successful if the court finds that proper provision was not made for the applying spouse in the divorce or dissolution of the civil partnership. It is often the case that an order is made at the time of divorce or dissolution which bars such an application being made.
Further information on succession rights is available in our document on what happens the deceased's estate.