New inheritance law changes simplifying what happens when someone dies without leaving a will came into effect on 1st October 2014.
Changes to the rights of people whose spouses or civil partners die without making a will have come into force.
The changes have been designed to speed up and modernise the process for dividing the money, property and other assets of someone who has died “intestate” (the legal terms for not having a will).
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.
The changes, made in the new Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act, include:
- When someone who has no children dies intestate, their whole estate will pass to their spouse. Before today’s changes a complex set of rules has been used which also, in some circumstances, allocated parts of the estate to other family members.
- When someone dies intestate and they do have children, the way their estate is split between their spouse and children will be simplified. This has also previously been subject to a complex set of rules.
- Closing a loophole to make sure children who are adopted don’t lose their inheritance after their parent’s death.
Justice Minister Lord Faulks said:
We want to make sure that when someone dies, and they haven’t left a will, their property will be dealt with sensibly and as quickly as possible. That is why we have made these common sense changes to modernise the law and make administering an estate faster and easier.
A large number of people do die without leaving a will each year, and I would encourage people of all ages to ensure they have properly considered making a will so that, if the worst happens, their own wishes are followed.
For married couples with no children, the surviving partner will now inherit their spouse’s entire estate. Under former laws they would get £450,000, then half of anything above that, with the rest divided among other relatives.
In cases where married couples had children, the surviving spouse was only entitled to interest on their half of anything over £250,000 under the old rules – with the sum itself given to the children after the surviving spouse died. Under the new laws, the surviving spouse will get the first £250,000 as before but they will now get half of the remainder – rather than just interest on that amount.
These are the first major changes to Rules of Intestacy since 1925. The changes apply in England and Wales.
The changes are designed to make the system fairer and address concerns that is has been difficult for those who deserve an inheritance to get one.
Rachel Damianou, Trust, Wills and Probate partner at Wrigley Claydon said:
Whilst the changes undoubtedly help the families of those dying without a will it is still much safer to contact us and make a will and ensure your precise wishes are carried out rather than relying on the laws of intestacy which effectively tells you who inherits and in what proportions on your death.