The intestacy rules that govern how assets are divided if someone dies without making a will changed from 1 October 2014. The changes do not affect people who die with less than £250,000 in assets but for those that leave more, the changes were significant.
For example, prior to 1 October 2014, a surviving spouse or civil partner in a relationship without children would have inherited the first £450,000 of the estate plus half of the remainder. The other half of the remainder would be split with surviving blood relatives of the deceased, such as their parents or brothers and sisters. In many cases these rules necessitated the sale of property in order to split the deceased’s estate. Since the rule change, where the deceased is survived by a spouse or civil partner (in England and Wales) and there are no children or remoter issue, the spouse or civil partner will inherit the whole of the deceased’s estate outright. The rules are different in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
There were also changes where the deceased leaves children. Prior to the change there were complicated rules that gave the spouse or civil partner the first £250,000 plus an entitlement to a life interest in half the remaining amount. This meant the spouse / civil partner could take income from the money, but not the capital. The rules now provide for the surviving spouse /civil partner (in England and Wales) to keep all assets up to £250,000 and to receive one half of the residue in full i.e. the capital rather than just the income. These rules are also different in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
If there are no living relatives, the estate will go automatically to the Crown. These rules may be a surprise to many of our readers.
We would remind anyone that hasn’t made provisions to think about making a Will to ensure that their assets are divided in accordance with their wishes.