Rights of Succession (Succession Act)
Dying without a will
If you die without making a will, your money and assets, or your ‘estate’, will not pass automatically to your spouse or children. If you do no make a will, there are laws governing rights of succession — the amount your spouse, children and other family members can inherit. In Ireland, if you do not make a will, your estate will be subject to the following rules of the Succession Act 1965:
|Married, no children||Spouse will inherit everything.|
|Married, children||Spouse will inherit two thirds, children will inherit one third between them.|
|Married, children and grandchildren of deceased child||Spouse will inherit two thirds, children will inherit one third between them, with grandchildren taking their deceased parent’s share between them.|
|Married, no surviving children, grandchildren of deceased children||Spouse will inherit two thirds, grandchildren will inherit one third between them in equal shares.|
|Single, no children, both parents survive||Parents take all in equal shares.|
|Single, no children, one parent survives||Surviving parent inherits all.|
|Single, no children, no parents, brothers and sisters survive||Siblings inherit in equal shares.|
|Single, no children, no parents, some brothers and sisters survive, nephews and nieces from deceased brothers and sisters||Siblings inherit in equal shares with nephews and nieces of deceased siblings inheriting their parents’ shares.|
|Single, no children, no parents, no brothers and sisters survive, nephews and nieces from deceased brothers and sisters||Nephews and nieces inherit in equal shares|
|None of the above survive||Distribution to next of kin (nearest blood relatives) in equal shares.|
Rights of succession
The rights of your spouse/civil partner and children
- In general, you can leave your money and property to any person or institution you choose except for the legal rights of your spouse/civil partner and children.
- If you have left a will, and your spouse/civil partner has never renounced or given up his/her rights to your estate, then that spouse/civil partner is entitled to what is called a “legal right share” of everything you own when you die – this is called your estate. This legal right share is one-half of your estate if you do not have children and one-third if you do. Your spouse/civil partner does not have to go to court to get this share, as any executor is obliged to grant this share.
- It is possible for a spouse/civil partner to renounce his/her rights to the legal right share. This can form part of an agreement prior to marriage or to entering a civil partnership. You should take legal advice before entering such an agreement. It should also be noted that marrying or entering a civil partnership invalidates an existing will, so you should make a new one immediately after changing status.
- If a couple is separated, a renunciation of each other’s right to the legal right share is usually (but not always) included in a separation agreement. Divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership automatically ends succession rights.
- Cohabiting partners who are not married or in a civil partnership have no automatic legal right to each other’s estates, although partners can make wills leaving money and property to each other. These wills, however, cannot cancel out the legal rights of a spouse or civil partner. In the case of deaths occurring after 1 January 2011, certain qualified cohabitants, whether same sex or opposite sex, may apply to the courts for redress if the relationship ends by death or otherwise. These are partners who have been living together for at least five years or for two years if they have a child together.
- Unlike a spouse/civil partner, children do not have any absolute right to inherit their parent’s estate if the parent has made a will. Children born inside or outside marriage and adopted children all have the same rights and there are no age restrictions. However, a child may make an application to court if he/she feels that he/she has not been adequately provided for. The court then has to decide if the parent has failed in his/her duty to the child in accordance with the needs of that child. Each case is considered individually. When making the decision, the court cannot reduce the legal right share of a spouse but it can reduce the legal right share of a civil partner.