Intestacy is the law which governs anyone’s estate who dies without a valid Last Will and Testament in place and the intestacy laws distribute the deceased person’s estate between any surviving spouse, children or relatives.
These laws are quite outdated and have meant that spouses were often only given half of their partner’s estate, however changes to the law means that this will no longer apply.
So what does this mean for the family of someone who dies without a valid Will and does it mean that making a Last Will and Testament is now pointless?
In a word, no. It is very important to make a Will to ensure that your wishes are honoured, but also to protect your spouse and your children. A Will is particularly important if you are not married or in a civil partnership as the law of intestacy makes no provision for ‘common law’ partners.
In addition to making a Will, you should also ensure that your Will is regularly updated with any births, deaths, divorces or changes in family circumstances. Often, it is these small changes which are missed which can cause serious family disagreements after death and mean that your wishes are not accounted for.
So what do these changes to the intestacy law incorporate? The reforms to the law, which are being made by the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014, include the passing of the whole estate to the surviving spouse if there are no children. The legislation also seeks to simplify the distribution of assets between children and their parent and any remaining relatives who inherit under the law.
These reforms include changes to inheritance by children who lose a parent and are subsequently adopted and are also intended to assist unmarried fathers who lose out under current laws if their child dies intestate.
These changes are to be introduced on 1st October 2014, and whilst they go some way to making the process of intestacy less painful, this is no replacement for the provision of a Will which can be used to ensure your wishes are carried out, but can also be a powerful tool to reducing the inheritance tax burden on your loved ones.
This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitor before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.
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