Posted on 30th September 2014

From 1st October Changes to the Law on Wills Takes into Account 21st Century Families

Latimer Hinks has welcomed new rules that will make the distribution of assets easier for families when someone dies without a will.

From October 1, under the Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act 2014, the surviving spouse or civil partner will receive a higher proportion of the estate to use as they wish, following changes to the intestacy rules.

Under the old rules, when someone dies intestate leaving a spouse or civil partner and issue, for example children or grandchildren, the spouse or civil partner received a "statutory legacy of £250,000 and personal belongings absolutely (i.e. outright). They would also have a life interest in one half of the balance - a life interest being the right to use the property or receive the income from it with the children taking the other half.

Under the new rules, the surviving spouse or civil partner would still receive the statutory legacy of £250,000 and personal belongings absolutely, but they would also receive half the balance absolutely, so it is their own property. Additionally, where a person dies intestate leaving a surviving spouse or civil partner but no issue, the surviving spouse or civil partner would take the whole estate.

However, the changes do not make any provision for unmarried couples or those who have not formed a civil partnership, so their estate will all pass to any children or if there are no children, then it will go to family, such as parents or siblings.

Natalie Palmer, partner in the private client department at Latimer Hinks Solicitors, said: "The rules were last reviewed back in the 1970s although there have been increases to the statutory legacy since then. Weve seen big changes in what defines family, whether its because people are less likely to get married or because were seeing more blended families following divorce and remarriage.

"So, although these changes are certainly welcome, and well overdue, it remains the fact that without a will, you cant make sure that your family will be cared for in the way you would wish. Whatever your marital status a will is worth doing and if youre not married and have significant assets such as property in your sole name, then it really should be top of your list. Its also particularly important where there is a second marriage, with children from previous relationships.