The government has announced changes to the intestacy rules that apply when somebody dies without leaving a will.
As from 6th February this year, a surviving spouse or civil partner will be entitled to a payment of £270,000 where the deceased’s estate does not exceed this amount, which is an increase from the previous amount of £250,000. This applies even if the deceased has children. The situation becomes more complicated though where the estate is worth more than this and there are surviving children. However, it would be unwise to rely on the application of the intestacy rules as they are arbitrary in nature and can lead to unwanted results, particularly if the deceased was unmarried or indeed was in a second marriage and had children from a previous relationship.
It is also important to remember that if you are cohabiting, your partner does not benefit at all under the intestacy rules which could leave them in a particularly vulnerable position.
The intestacy rules can also lead to an inheritance tax charge even for married couples or those in a civil partnership and so for all of these reasons we would always advise having a will drawn up.
It is estimated that up to two thirds of the adult population don’t have a will but there is also strong evidence now that many people are willing to take legal action if they are unhappy with an inheritance.
A will enables you to plan more effectively for inheritance tax, direct your estate after you have died, allow you to benefit friends and charities, who do not benefit at all under the intestacy rules as well as giving the opportunity to help vulnerable beneficiaries such as minor children or those with a disability through the use of a trust.
Not only is it important to have Wills in place but it is just as important to keep them up-to-date and review them regularly, at least every five years or so or if there are changes in circumstances within the family that should be taken into account.
If you would like to discuss the preparation of a will, please contact Patrick Green on +44 (0)20 7354 3000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.