New rules have come into force for the laws governing what happens to someone’s assets when they die without a Will (the laws of intestacy) and who can make a claim against an estate.

One of the controversial parts of the new rules is around the modern family i.e. who receives what if you were co-habiting. Many professionals were pressing for those in unmarried relationships to receive a portion of their partner’s estate if they die without a Will.

At present, unmarried partners are legally entitled to nothing even if they share children or have cohabited for many years. The new laws do not change this. Die without a Will and your partner receives nothing. Their only recourse is for them to make a claim against your estate.

The Changes

The surviving partner of married couples and civil partners without children will now receive everything. Under the old rules the survivor received the first £450,000 plus half the rest. The other half was split between blood relatives according to strict rules.

For married couples and civil partners with children the surviving partner is entitled to the first £250,000 plus half the remainder. The children share the rest! Previously the surviving spouse only got a life interest in half the remainder i.e. they received the income from their half but the capital was protected for the children.

Finally, one of the other significant changes is to the scope of people who are entitled to claim against an estate. As well as redefining who is classified as a dependant the new rules now recognise the ‘blended family’. For example, your partner’s child can now claim against your estate as if they were your child. Even if your partner died before you. However, this doesn’t automatically mean they will be successful if a claim is made.

The changes to the intestacy laws once again highlight the importance of making a Will; if you want to choose who inherits you need to have a Will. Furthermore make sure it’s up to date and relevant.

Dying without a valid will not only means your final wishes may go unheeded, but a financial and emotional mess is left for your loved ones to sort out. This need not be your final legacy!!

Pavilion Row, one of our legal partners, has produced the new intestacy flowchart which can be downloaded here. Laws of Intestacy Flowchart

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