Married partners of people who die without a will stand to be better off under major changes to inheritance rules announced by the Ministry of Justice.
As of 1 February 2009, new rules on intestacy are due to come into force. From this date, if a person dies without making a will and leaves children behind, their partner will receive the first £250,000 of the estate, instead of the current laws where they will receive £125,000.
If the person dies without making a will and doesn’t have any children, but has a close relative - a parent, brother or sister, niece or nephew - their partner will receive the first £450,000, instead of the current £200,000.
But Justice Minister Bridget Prentice admits, that the changes, which come into force in February, are no substitute for making a valid will.
“[The new laws] will give extra protection to married couples and civil partners whose spouse or civil partner dies without making a will. But it also highlights how important it is for both men and women to make arrangements for their loved ones in the event of their deaths,” she said.
“Married couples and civil partners should not assume that when their spouse or civil partner dies, they will automatically be entitled to everything. It is up to individuals to make sure that their wishes are respected by making a will.
“My message to people is, don't leave it to chance. Make sure your loved ones are properly provided for by leaving a will.”
You can make a will with Lawpack and protect yourself and your loved ones from the lottery of our intestacy laws. Find out more now.
Are you cohabiting? Then you have no rights at all.
If your partner hasn’t made a will, then only married couples have the above protection. If you are living together and not married, there is no guarantee you will inherit anything at all.
Under the eyes of the law there is no such thing as a common-law wife or husband. If you are cohabiting, you have no automatic right to inherit anything at all from your partner.
Emma Gaudern, head of private client at DWF, said:
“The new rules represent a better deal for surviving partners and will allow many of them greater financial security. However, they still make no provision at all for a cohabitee – who simply has no rights. These changes should alert people to the importance of making a will.
“It is a fallacy to think that if one partner dies, the other will automatically inherit everything. In some cases husbands or wives have had to sell their homes to pay off the relatives.
“By making a will you can leave your money to whoever you wish including unmarried partners, grandchildren or friends, as well as detail your funeral wishes and choose your executors.”
Find out more about the risks of cohabitation under our current laws… Or solve the problem now by simply writing a Will today.
Here’s where you stand under current intestacy laws.
Intestacy rules are strict – and they often may not reflect what you wish or expect to happen.
Under our current intestacy laws, your partner (of a marriage or civil partnership) only inherits the entire estate if you don’t have any living children, parents, brothers, sisters, nephews or nieces.
But if you have children, your partner can only guarantee getting your "chattels" – your furniture, clothes, car, etc. - and a maximum of £125,000. Nothing more.
The rest, known in legal jargon known as “the residue”, must be split two ways. Your partner can receive an income, such as interest for life, from one half of your residue. They cannot, however, spend this half. The other half goes to your children when they reach 18 (or when they marry). Your children will also inherit the "income" share when your partner dies.
If you don’t have any children your partner can keep £200,000 and half “the residue” with the rest going to other family members in a strict order of legal precedence. Not according to your wishes though.
And here’s where you will stand under new laws coming in February 2009.
The new rules follow a three-year review but fail to address the situation of those who are not married (or have entered a civil partnership). The new legislation doesn’t radically alter the existing process, or even account for changes in the cost of living since the last review.
And this it’s why it’s so important that you make your will, and take control over who you want to inherit your wealth. Making a will is a simple process and there’s no need for a solicitor. You can write a Will today with Lawpack.
The new rules merely increase the amount that a spouse may receive. And this increase, the first since 1993, doesn't even keep pace with the rising cost of living.
In February 2009 the intestacy law changes apply only to England and Wales. The £125,000 "statutory legacy" will be increased to £250,000 and the £200,000 level goes up to £450,000.
And that’s about it. The Law Commission have been petitioning the government to look into our outdated intestacy laws for a long time.
But in the mean time you can take the simple steps of making sure you give yourself a say by making your own will. Find out more today.
Dying without a will effectively rules out making a gift to causes and charities you may wish to support. And it rules out making gifts to friends. You can’t give one child more than another - or deal with more complex family arrangements many of us have such as stepchildren.
At Lawpack we have helped over a million people to gain peace of mind and make their own will. Forget the limitations of our intestacy laws and give yourself a say. Write your Will today and make your wishes known.
Getting married or divorce? Find out why you should be writing a Will today.
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Published on: June 3, 2008