The Law Society Library discusses the succession rights of illegitimate relations on an intestacy.

The Law Society Library maintains a database of enquiries called Common Queries. These include results from research to find forms, precedents, rules, regulations and guidance. These records can be freely accessed via the library catalogue, Library Search.

Succession rights of illegitimate persons on intestacy

Since 4 April 1988, illegitimacy hasn’t been an issue (excuse the pun) and you may think the passage of time makes this irrelevant. However, somewhat surprisingly, this was a genuine query put to the Library.

A solicitor was sending old files to storage when they discovered a probate matter that had never been fully resolved. A partial intestacy from the early 1980s where the only living relative was an illegitimate niece. Could she inherit the residual estate?

Below are the results of our research.

1 January 1927 to 31 December 1969

Under the Legitimacy Act 1926 (LA 1926), section 9, an illegitimate child could inherit from its mother, but only if the mother had no other legitimate children. However, the mother had an interest in her child’s estate under intestacy laws.

1 January 1970 to 3 April 1988

The rights of illegitimate children to inherit were expanded by the Family Law Reform Act 1969 (FLRA 1969), section 14, (repealing section 9 of the LA 1926). Under the FLRA 1969, the illegitimate child of any person who died on or after 1 January 1970 gained an interest in the estate as if they had been born legitimate. This, in turn, gave their children (ie the grandchildren of the deceased) rights of inheritance. If the intestate were themselves illegitimate, the FLRA 1969 enabled both parents to have an interest in the estate, not just the mother.

4 April 1988 onwards

The Family Law Reform Act 1987, section 18(1) came into force on 4 April 1988, repealing section 14 of the FLRA 1969. From this date, illegitimacy stopped being taken into consideration. From 4 April 1988, all illegitimate relations could inherit under an intestacy.

Main references:

  • Holloway’s Probate Handbook, 3rd edition (1973) to 9th edition (1993).

Historical legal research is why we never dispose of our old editions. Our collection goes back to the sixteenth century. We can, of course, also undertake current legal research.

Copies of all documents listed here can be supplied by email via Lawdocs, our document supply service. 

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While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.