Most of us won’t have heard the term intestacy unless we have been involved with a relative who died without leaving a Will. The laws of intestacy govern who inherits from the estate of someone who died without a valid Will and therefore left no instructions about their wishes.
From the 1st October 2014, the intestacy laws have been updated to try to better reflect the diverse society we now live in, however in many respects this has not been achieved.
There has been a huge drive from legal representatives to include ‘common law’ partners, who have been living together for five years or who have children and have lived together for two years, into the intestacy laws.
Currently if you and your partner live together but do not marry, it does not matter how long you have been together nor if you have children, you will not inherit anything from your partner’s estate when they die if they do not leave a Will. The recent changes have still not encompassed ‘common law’ partners though and it is crucial to ensure that you both make a valid Last Will and Testament to avoid the serious upheaval, upset and financial difficulties that will follow if you don’t.
Changes have been made to the amount a spouse will receive from an estate worth more than £250,000 and this has increased, particularly if the couple did not have any children. Under previous intestacy rules, a spouse would only receive the first £450,000 plus income for life from half of the remaining estate. The residue was divided between the blood relatives of the person who died. Under the new intestacy laws, the surviving spouse will receive all of the estate.
The rules have been simplified for surviving children who inherit part of their parent’s estate through the intestacy rules. Originally, the surviving parent would get £250,000 and only an interest in half of the remaining estate and the other half of the money would be divided up and given to the children under complex rules and regulations.
Under the revised intestacy laws, a spouse will take the first £250,000 and half of the remainder of the estate. The rest is divided equally between the children and kept in trust until they are 18 years old.
One other major change abolishes an extremely odd legal anomaly. Under the previous system, if a child was adopted after their parent had died, they would lose all entitlement to inherit from the estate. The intestacy laws now recognises the right of the child to their inheritance whether or not they are adopted by someone else.
You can avoid anyone in your family being subjected to the intestacy laws by making a Will so you can decide who inherits from your estate and protect your family at the same time.
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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