No Will? You should read this…

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You may hear a lot in the news over the next few days about changes to the law of Intestacy (which kick in today). These rules apply when a person dies without leaving a Will. From today, the law has been modernised (and simplified) in this area, a very welcome update!

If a person who is married or in a civil partnership dies and leaves a spouse (but no children) their whole estate will now pass to the their spouse. I think the majority of people believe this will happen in any event, but in reality before the law was changed only £450,000 would pass to the spouse plus half of the remainder, the other half of the remainder would go to remoter blood relatives of the deceased.

If the deceased leaves children and a spouse then the spouse will now receive all the personal chattels of the deceased, £250,000 and half of the remainder and the children will receive the other half. Before the law was changed, the spouse would have received £250,000, but would only have been entitled to the income from half of the rest, or to live in the property if that formed part of that half share, they did not get the half share outright. This caused many complications which can now be more easily avoided.
It is important to remember that although these changes do simplify and modernise things for those that are married or in civil partnerships, they do not change the position for couples living together – who still receive nothing if their partner dies without leaving a Will.

Other changes have also been made to ensure that adopted children do not lose out if their natural parents die after they have been adopted and the definition of 'personal chattels' has been updated (for the first time since 1925!) Personal chattels now includes anything that is not a business asset, an investment or money – I am looking forward to reading about the case law that will inevitably result as the meaning of 'investment' has not been defined!

I am pleased to see such a modern change in the law of intestacy but it is still important to make a Will if you want specific people to benefit from your estate - remember that the law of intestacy does not provide for cohabitees, friends or charities, or any other specific wishes you may have!