A glance at the reforms to Intestacy Rules ñ How your Inheritance Terms are changing?



A glance at the reforms to Intestacy Rules ñ How your Inheritance Terms are changing?

On the 1st October, the greatest reform to the handling of a deceasedís estate, in the case of no formal will being written, will be enacted with eyebrow-raising stipulations for certain sectors of society.

At present, if an individual passes away without leaving a will, there are regulations set out to cope with the resulting intestacy. For those with over £250,000 in assets these changes could have a significant impact on breadwinnerís dependants, however those with under this amount in assets will be unaffected. Naturally, in the months leading up to the final draft, there was clamour for various measures to be taken to prevent recurring disputes occurring.

Unmarried Co-Inhabitants

Firstly, the issue over whether or not an unmarried partner, who has engaged in a long term relationship with an intestate, ought to receive relief in the form of assets made for highly charged debate. Lawyers proposed that unmarried partners who had been left bereft by their other halfís untimely death ought to be eligible for a portion of their estate provided they had co-inhabited for 5 years. At present, they are legally entitled to nothing, even if they share children with their co-inhabitants or have lived with them for the majority of their lifetime.

With respect to this matter, nothing is changing; co-inhabitants will still receive squat, regardless of shared children or time spent in co-residence, and efforts aimed towards divergence from this actuality have been thwarted by policymakers. James Antoniou, head of wills at Co-Operative Legal Services, indicated that thought had been given to the matter but ultimately the notion was dismissed.

ìOne of the initial proposals that was not included in the agreed changes was to include co-habitants in the intestacy rules to reflect living circumstances in todayís society,î says James Antoniou, head of wills for the Co-operative Legal Services. ìThis would have seen a co-habitee treated like a spouse if they had been living with the deceased for at least five years up until death, or if they had children together and had been living together for at least two years up until death.î

Though it is understandably an uneasy task to sit down and write a will whilst feeling in fine fettle, unmarried couples must pay heed to this matter as it is a loved oneís future contentment and comfort that is on the line. Alternatively, marriage is always an optionÖ

Married Partner/Civil Partner & Children

In the situation where a deceased individual and his wife/civil partner have had children, at present the wife would receive everything up to £250, 000 with a more complex method used to share out any assets on top of that amount.

The deceasedís children would automatically be afforded half of the gross amount over £250, 000, with a trustee overseeing a childís account if they are below the age of 18. The children would also be given the other half of this amount, with the widowed individual currently being eligible for life interest from said amount, thus enabling her to extract income from this set amount without being entitled to any capital gained on the inherited assets,

However, following the overhaul to intestacy rules, the theory of life interest will be eradicated and the widow/widower will be entitled to the initial £250, 000 and then half of any amount above it straight-up, with the children taking the other half of the sum above £250, 000. Though dependants appear to be losing out, the simplification of this system could be welcomed.

However, thoughts of simplification appear erroneous when the intended reforms to what can be defined as ëpersonal propertyí in the eyes of the law are considered. Formally known as ëchattelsí, personal property has been outlined as anything which does not pertain to oneís monetary, business or investment exploits. However, the clarity over what can be legitimately discerned as an investment can be called into question, as Mr Antoniou remarks.

ìPeople see investments as different things, and where there are collectable items of value in an estate, there may be a dispute over whether they pass to the new spouse as ëchattelsí, or form part of the estate that the children from a previous marriage might inherit as an ëinvestmentí:î he suggested.

Married Partner/Civil Partner ñ No Children

Those tied in matrimony who have abstained from the rearing of children are in line to be significantly impacted upon by October 1stís intestacy.

At present, if a married partner perished leaving behind his spouse but no children, the surviving spouse would rake in the primary £450, 000 of the estate and half of anything on top of that amount. The other half of the remaining excess would be split between the departed individualís closest relatives i.e. his parents & siblings.

1.    So, a man passes away without leaving a will, and leaves behind an estate worth £1m.
2.    His spouse would immediately receive £450, 000
3.    Of the remaining 550,000, the spouse would also receive half ñ i.e. £275000
4.    The other £275000 would be shared amongst the deceasedís closest blood relatives

However, from October 1st the surviving marital partner will be entitled to the entire sum of the outstanding estate and these ëclose relativesí will not be legally entitled to a penny.


It appears that focus has been put on oneís immediate family, with the spouse/civil partner coming out the rosiest in scenarios of intestacy. Writing a will could be more imperative than ever now if you want certain loved ones to benefit from your assets following your passing.

Donít allow your nearest and dearest to be shafted out of your savingsÖbecause you didnít fill out the necessary paperwork.

Find out how to make a will with MoneyExpert.