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Intestacy V’s Having a Will

Intestacy V’s Having a Will

By Annabel Charlton, Apprentice Solicitor, Wills & Probate

It is a common misconception that when your spouse or civil partner passes away without a Will, all of their estate automatically passes to the surviving spouse. However, this is not the case.

When somebody dies without a Will their estate is referred to as ‘intestate.’ There are set rules for distributing an intestate estate which were last updated in 2014. As the current law stands, the surviving spouse is entitled to £250,000 of the estate, known as the statutory legacy, all the deceased’s personal property and belongings plus half of the residuary estate. Where the deceased has children, the remaining residuary estate is split between them, or their descendants if a child has predeceased.

On 6th February 2020, the government is set to increase the amount that automatically passes to the surviving spouse in an intestate estate, from £250,000 to £270,000.  The statutory legacy is increased every five years in line with inflation rates, hence the increase. This will be a welcome increase to spouses and civil partners, however the real importance lies in having a Will.

An increasing number of couples are now living together but not marrying or becoming civil partners. In law, it is irrelevant how long the couple have been in a relationship. Where the deceased had no children all of their estate will pass to parents, or brothers and sisters where the parents have predeceased them. There are no provisions in law for unmarried partners, which can leave the surviving partner in a difficult situation, especially where property is jointly owned. Conflicts often arise between family members when an intestate estate is concerned, often leading to expensive court battles and irreversible relationship breakdowns between families.

Annabel Charlton, Apprentice Solicitor in the Wills and Probate department at Coles Solicitors says: “It is so important for anyone, and everyone, to have a Will. A Will is the only way to ensure your estate goes to who you want it to when you die. It states your wishes regarding your estate, where you want specific personal possessions to go and appointing guardians for any minor children you have. The intestacy rules are a standard set of rules governed by law which may not reflect your wishes regarding your estate. Writing a Will is not as bad as it sounds, and although it is not nice to have to think about the prospect of dying and where your assets are to go, the thought of your hard earned money and belongings going somewhere you don’t want, and the issues that arise from this, is worse.”

Contact our friendly team today to book an appointment to make or review your will. 0800 160 10 10.

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