What Happens to an Estate if One Party Dies During a Separation or Divorce?

On average, people in the UK are thought to wait between six and 12 months before they’re able to access any inheritance that they’re due.

This is an extended period of time for individuals, especially when you consider the current economic climate and the combination of rampant inflation with rising interest rates and negative economic growth.

This is why so many Brits take out a probate loan to shorten this waiting time, making the process much more manageable over time.

But what happens if you or your partner dies during the course of separation or divorce?

probate of will

Separation with and without a Will

If you and your partner separate with a formal will in place, your plans will remain unchanged so long as your other half has been appointed as an executor or official trustee.

For anything to change, you’ll need to formally remove your spouse from the will and deselect them as executor, although this is a difficult decision that will depend on your precise circumstances and require careful consideration.

But what about if you separate without a will? In this instance, the estate will pass under the rules of so-called “intestacy”, which describes a statutory regime through which a spouse and estate is divided and the remaining family inherit predetermined amounts in a specified order (once again depending on your precise circumstances).

In this case, if you don’t have children or surviving family members, the entirety of your estate will be passed directly to your spouse.

probate and estate

Divorcing With or Without a Will – The Key Considerations

Divorce creates a slightly more complex situation, as your will won’t automatically be voided if you permanently separate from your spouse.

However, any appointments as executor or trustee will subsequently fail, as will any gifts that have been given to the benefit of your ex-spouse. If your spouse was the sole beneficiary of your will, the estate will pass under the aforementioned rules of intestacy.

In cases where you divorce without a will, the estate will also pass formally under the predetermined rules of intestacy. This means that you’ll no longer be treated as having a spouse, with your estate once again distributed in a specific manner among remaining family member in chronological orders.

In this case, your unique family circumstances will also come into play, ensuring that unfair restrictions aren’t imposed on your estate and remaining beneficiaries.

The Last Word

So, there you have it; a brief insight into managing estates and inheritances in the case of spousal separation or divorce.

As you can see, there are complexities and variables based on your circumstances and the value of your estate, and these will need to be understood as part of your financial contingency planning.

This way, you can make the most of your estate and understand how best to manage this if your personal circumstances change.