30 Jan Dying without a Will – Intestacy Update
When a person dies without making a Will, their estate is known as ‘intestate’. If the deceased person was married the assumption is often ‘we were married so I, as the surviving spouse (or indeed as a civil partner), must surely inherit everything’? Unfortunately, this is a preconception that can of course be even further complicated when cohabiting couples are involved or even in the case of children from more than one relationship.
Under the current intestacy rules, there is a specific order of entitlement that broadly applies. In general, if a person dies without leaving a Will, if they are survived by a spouse or civil partner and children, currently the spouse or civil partner receives a ‘statutory legacy’ of £250,000 and half of the rest of the estate. The other half is divided equally between their children (if they are under 18 then more detailed rules relating to trusts will apply). If the deceased did not leave any children then their entire estate will pass to their spouse or civil partner. As you will probably guess, different rules will of course apply if there is no surviving spouse or civil partner.
As from 06 February 2020, the statutory legacy to the surviving spouse or civil partner will increase to £275,000. The increase is in line with a governmental decision to raise this figure every five years as protection against inflation and an ever changing economy.
In our opinion, the very fact that your estate could be subject to forces beyond your control highlights the need to make a Will and get matters in order before you die. When a Will is drafted, the control is very much with you (i.e. the testator) as you can specify which beneficiaries inherit what assets. The nightmare intestacy scenario of a partner (i.e. not a spouse or civil partner) plus several children can be managed appropriately. You, as the testator, would have the ability to avoid the intestacy rules and manage your and your family’s future.
Often people refer to their partner as their common law partner or say they are living together as common law husband and wife, however legally there is no such thing. A spouse for the purposes of the intestacy rules is someone you are married to, a civil partner is someone who you have entered into a civil partnership with, a civil partnership is a legal relationship that has to be registered and is similar to a marriage.
If you require any advice regarding intestacy, preparing or reviewing your Will and estate planning please contact either myself Matthew Billingsley or my colleagues in the Private Client Team at either our Sturminster Newton office (01258 444481) or Shaftesbury office (01747 852377). For more details about our Private Client Team click here.