K J Smith Solicitors

Intestacy Law is changing - are you still happy to put off making a Will?

Published: 24 November 2014

Intestacy Law is changing - are you still happy to put off making a Will?

If you are young and in good health you may think that you have no need for a Will.  It’s only old people who die and need a Will isn’t it?

If these are your beliefs you are not alone. 

Almost 9 out of 10 under-35s and two-thirds of those aged between 35 and 54 are living without a will, despite 92% of people having a firm idea of who they would like to see their money go to when they die[1].

Dying without a Will means you die intestate and the distribution of your assets is up to the Government.  New intestacy rules came into force on 1st October as a result of the Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act 2014.

The single biggest change affects married couples and those in a civil partnership without children of the relationship.  Historically, the first £450,000 from the deceased’s estate went to the spouse or civil partner, with the balance of the estate being shared between the deceased’s blood relatives. 

Under the new rules the spouse or civil partner will receive the entire estate.  Wider family members will not receive anything.

If you have children, under the old rules the spouse or civil partner of the deceased received the first £250,000 and a life interest in half the remainder with any children receiving the other half. 

The new rules abolish the concept of life interest and the surviving spouse or civil partner will receive the first £250,000 and half the remainder.  The children will receive half of everything above £250,000 but they will have to wait until they reach the age of 18 before having access to any funds.

The changes provide no protection for cohabiting couples who are unmarried and not in a civil partnership.

I believe that problems are likely to arise where the deceased is married but have children from a previous marriage or relationship.

Separated married couples or civil partners should ensure their estates are protected in the event of them dying before resolution of the financial aspects of separation at the time of divorce or dissolution.

The changes also bring the law up to date and in line with the different family models which now exist.  Any person who was treated as a child of the deceased parent, regardless of whether that relationship had arisen because of the marriage of any person in that family unit or not, is now entitled to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975.

If you are unsure of where you stand then K J Smith Solicitors are here to help. For more information or to arrange your free 45 min consultation, contact us today on 01491 630000 (Henley-on-Thames), 020 7070 0330 (Central London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor) or 01256 584000 (Basingstoke).

[1] According to research carried out in October 2010 by the financial advice website unbiased.co.uk.

This article was written by Suzanne Foster.

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