Ireland: Inheritance Rights Explained

What inheritance rights apply in Ireland?

Recent changes to the laws have extended inheritance rights to civil partners and co-habitants, but the rights are complex. Misunderstanding and poor communication can often result in bitter inheritance disputes – something we are sure most people do not want.

If a lawfully married spouse dies with or without leaving a valid will, the person ‘s surviving spouse is entitled to a fixed share of their estate. As the law has changed recently, a surviving civil partner is entitled to the same.

If the deceased leaves a valid will, then that will have a bearing on the proportion of the inheritance that the spouse or civil partner is entitled to. This usually varies depending on whether or not there are children. Irrespective of the will’s contents, the surviving spouse or civil partner is entitled to what is called the “legal right share”, half of the estate, but only one-third of it if there are children. If a spouse or a civil partner is given a gift in the will, they can choose between the gift of their legal right share.
When someone dies intestate, clear statutory rules apply. If there are no children, the spouse or civil partner can inherit the whole estate – or two-thirds of it if there are children.

Section 117 of the Succession Act 1965 allows children of a deceased parent to start proceedings to seek out provision from their parent’s estate. The parent has a moral duty to provide for children in accordance to their means – either through their will or during their lifetime.

The action needs to be started within six months from the time that representatives of the estate gain authority from the Probate Office – called a grant.

Children are entitled to a statutory share of the parent’s estate, depending on whether there is a surviving spouse or civil partner, if someone dies intestate.

Recent legislation has seen to it that there are succession rights for people who aren’t married or civil partners, but who live together as a couple. A qualified co-habitant must have been in a relationship with the deceased for a period of two years or more. Where there are dependent children, the period should be five years or more.

A claim must be started with six months of the date of the grant.

There are no statutory benefits for relatives other than spouses, civil partners, children and co- habitants. This does not mean that their entitlement is affected if a gift has been left to siblings, cousins etc., in the will. But if the person dies intestate, then other relations can only benefit if they are the closest surviving next of kin.