When someone dies without leaving a valid will, this is known as ‘intestacy’ and the person is ‘intestate’. The rules which govern how their estate is distributed have changed with effect from 1 October 2014. The new Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act 2014 has changed the procedures, rules regarding claims against the estate and certain trustees’ powers.
The aim is to recognise modern family situations and simplify how the intestate’s assets will be shared. From now on, if the intestate dies leaving a spouse (which includes husband, wife or civil partner) but no children, the whole estate will pass to their spouse. Their parents will not now receive a share, as was previously the case in larger estates. If they die leaving a spouse and children, the spouse receives the first £250,000 and half of the remaining assets, the other half passing equally between the surviving children. This £250,000 legacy is to be reviewed every five years and may be increased.
The definition of someone’s personal chattels (now defined as tangible moveable property) has also changed and will not now include items used for the intestate’s business.
The new law is designed to recognise that not all families are of a traditional structure i.e. stepfamilies, unmarried parents etc. Anyone treated as a child of the intestate may potentially claim against the estate, even if they are not a blood relative. For example, a child may claim against their stepfather’s estate when their biological mother has died first and the stepfather has not provided for them.
As ever, it is important to make a Will to ensure that our assets pass as we would wish. Whilst we must bear in mind the people for whom we have a duty to provide, we can then leave our hard earned cash and precious personal items to whoever we choose. Making a Will can avoid confusion and upset after we are gone and should always be done under the guidance of a specialist solicitor.
Please feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss this matter further.
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