Contentious Probate Solicitor, Chris Holten examines changes to the Intestacy Rules (which apply when someone dies without making a Will) that came into force in England and Wales on 1 October 2014.
Under the old law, married couples without children used to inherit the first £450,000 of their partner’s estate, with the rest being divided in accordance with the Intestacy Provisions. This has now changed. Under the new Act, the surviving partner will now inherit the whole of their spouse’s estate.
The situation is slightly different for those with children. Under the old law the surviving spouse inherited the first £250,000 and was entitled to a life interest in the remainder. However, this only entitled them to the income generated from the capital.
Under the new Act a spouse with children is now entitled to the first £250,000 and half of the remainder, with the rest being distributed to the children.
A spouse is also entitled to keep their spouses personal chattels (bits and pieces).
Jointly owned property is not included in the estate and passes by survivorship.
The new Act expands the definition of a step child, to include the wider definition of “child of the family”.
Amendments have been made to the rights of those who have been adopted. An anomaly exists under the old law, which can deprive an adopted child of an inheritance they were entitled to before their adoption. This anomaly has now been removed by the new Act.
These are welcome changes to the law. However the reforms do not cover all eventualities and some people think it is a missed opportunity.
It is particularly disappointing that the new Act does not incorporate the Law Commission’s recommendation that couples who have been co-habiting for over five years are given the same rights as married couples.
If you are concerned about your position following the death of a loved one and feel you have not been adequately provided for either by their Will or the intestacy rules then please call our FREE helpline for an informal discussion on 0808 139 1596.