If you die without making a Will, the intestacy rules govern who will inherit your estate. There were changes to the existing provisions made at the end of 2014.
The biggest change is for married couples with no children. Under the old rules, if a spouse died without making a Will and there were no children, then the first £450,000 of the estate, plus half of the rest, went to the surviving spouse. The other half was split between the deceased’s blood relatives – in the first instance the deceased’s parents if they were still alive.
Under the new rules, there is less chance of parents or more distant relatives getting a share of the estate. From 1st October 2014, the surviving spouse receives the whole estate, with no share going to other relatives in the first instance.
There are also some significant changes to what happens if a married couple or couple in a civil partnership do have children. Previously, the married partner only took the first £250,000, with the remainder shared by a complicated formula: the children would receive half of the balance above £250,000. The other half would he held firstly as a life interest for the surviving spouse and to the children on the death of the surviving spouse.
From 1st October 2014, the position is a lot more straightforward. The surviving spouse will take the first £250,000 and half of the remainder. The children will get the other half of the remainder above £250,000.
If you die leaving a child under the age of 18 who was subsequently adopted by someone else, there was a risk that child would not inherit anything under the previous intestacy laws from their natural parent. The new intestacy rules fix this so that adopted children will not ‘lose out’ on their inheritance.
The definition of what is personal property or “chattels” has also changed. Wills sometimes use this statutory definition when making gifts of your personal property or the contents of your home, but the updated definition will only apply to Wills executed after the new act comes into force. “Chattels” will now be defined as anything that is not money, business assets or investments.