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New intestacy rules favouring surviving spouse/partner take effect today

01 October 2014

Reforms simplifying what happens when someone dies without leaving a will came into force across England and Wales today, 1 October.

Why have they changed?

The Ministry of Justice said the reforms bring the law into line “with the expectations of modern society” and will make the process easier to manage for relatives and friends.

What has changed?

Among the changes, which are outlined in the new Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act, are that, when someone who has no children dies intestate, their whole estate will pass to their spouse.

Where children are involved, the surviving spouse of an intestate with children will get the first £250,000, the deceased’s personal chattels and half the balance of the remaining estate outright. Children or other descendants will share the other half of the balance, either outright or on trust depending on the age of the children.

What about cohabitees?

In the case of cohabitation, if one unmarried partner dies without leaving a will their partner will still get nothing under the new rules.

Even more reason to make a will

If a person dies intestate, they lose control over what happens to their estate, meaning that their final wishes about their savings, assets and investments may not be met. Furthermore, note that these new rules will apply even if the deceased is estranged from their spouse or civil partner.

Simon Cook, head of our wills, probate & trusts department said:

“We strongly recommend people prepare a will with a solicitor so that in the event of their death, they provide for the loved ones that they want and need to support.”

To discuss these changes in more detail or to find out about making a will please contact any of the lawyers in our wills, probate & trusts team.

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Simon Cook LLB (Hons), TEP
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