Following an extensive consultation, the Government has introduced the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Bill into the House of Lords.
The Bill aims to reform the laws of intestacy (i.e. the rules that apply when a person dies without leaving a will) and will allow the spouse of a person who dies childless to inherit the entire estate.
At present, the rights of a spouse to inherit where there are no children but the deceased does have other relatives (such as surviving parents) are limited to the personal property and belongings of their spouse plus the first £450,000 of the estate and a half-share of the remaining estate. Where there are children, the estate is divided among the surviving spouse and the children.
Other proposed changes are ones which will enhance the rights of adoptive and illegitimate children.
The Bill also provides for claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 to be made even where the deceased is domiciled abroad if that person is survived by an ‘eligible person’ who is habitually resident in England or Wales.
At present, the Act only applies where the deceased was domiciled in England or Wales at the time of death. This limitation has made such claims difficult to sustain in cases where the deceased person has been resident abroad for a considerable time and it could be argued that they had established a ‘domicile of choice’ outside the UK.
The progress of the Bill can be followed on the UK Parliament website.