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Changes to the intestacy rules - do they suit you?

The Inheritance and Trustees' Powers Act 2014 provides for changes to the intestacy rules and apply where a person dies on or after 1 October 2014 without a valid Will.

If you die “intestate”, or without a Will, the law sets out what happens to your estate in the intestacy rules which says that only your spouse, civil partner, children or blood relatives can (but not always do) benefit from your estate.

This means that unmarried couples and long term partners are not protected. Your children and grandchildren may get nothing.

Jargon Buster:

Issue   children, grandchildren, great grandchildren

Residuary estate   what is left after payment of debts, taxes, administrative fees, probate costs, and court cost

Personal Chattels    tangible movable property eg. your personal possessions things like cars, jewellery, furniture, books etc                                                     Does not include money, or property used mainly for business purposes.

1. Deceased leaves surviving spouse or civil partner and surviving issue (children, grandchildren)

Where the deceased is survived (for more than 28 days) by his/her spouse or civil partner and issue, then the residuary estate is dealt with as follows:

  • Personal chattels pass to the spouse or civil partner
  • A statutory legacy of £250,000 (or if the residuary estate is less than £250,000 all the residuary estate) is payable to the spouse or civil partner
  • Whatever is left after the first £250,000 is split into two. The first half passes to the spouse or civil partner and the remaining half is shared between the issue on the statutory trusts
  • The spouse or civil partner can ask the deceased’s personal representatives to appropriate the matrimonial home to him/her in satisfaction of their entitlement.

2. Deceased leaves surviving spouse or civil partner (but no issue)

  • The spouse or civil partner inherits everything.

3. Deceased dies at any time leaving no surviving spouse or civil partner but does leave blood relatives

  • The order as to which of those relatives inherits is set out by the intestacy rules.

4. Deceased leaves no blood relation

  • Where someone dies without a Will and with no blood relation, their estate passes as bona vacantia to the Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duke of Cornwall. 

In short, the rules may not reflect the wishes of the deceased. A Will is the only way to ensure that your wishes are properly expressed and followed through- you choose the people who will deal with your affairs when you die, you choose who will benefit from your estate and how. If you don't, the law will do it for you.

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