Ahead of changes to the intestacy rules taking effect on 1 October, and as part of its national consumer campaign, the Law Society is reminding people of the importance of using a solicitor to make a will.
Intestacy rules govern how your estate is divided if you die without a valid will. New provisions brought in under the Inheritance and Trustees' Powers Act 2014 change the way a person's estate is divided if they die without a valid will and have a surviving spouse or civil partner.
If you die without a valid will and are separated - but not divorced - your estranged partner will inherit more than your children. If you do not have children, your partner or civil partner will inherit your entire estate.
Law Society president Andrew Caplen said:
'The changes to the intestacy rules serve as a reminder of the importance of having a will.
'Dying without a valid will not only means your final wishes may go unheeded, but a financial and emotional mess is left for your loved ones to sort out. This need not be your final legacy.
'We urge people to use a qualified, insured solicitor because they are trained to spot and address the issues that could lead to trouble later.
'As the law currently stands anyone can set themselves up as a 'will writer'. It is important consumers are able to distinguish between those who are unregulated, uninsured and untrained, and solicitors who specialise in this area and offer a quality service.
'For full consumer protection the only prudent choice is to instruct a solicitor to prepare a will.
'The Law Society's consumer campaign - 'Use a professional. Use a solicitor' - supports this and encourages people to use a professional, regulated solicitor when making a will.'
To find a solicitor specializing in wills and probate visit the Law Society's Find a Solicitor website.
This allows people to search a database of more than 140,000 solicitors nationally by practice area and geography.
Other changes as part of the Act include:
- Altering the position of adopted children, where they are adopted after the death of their parents, to ensure they do not lose any potential claim to inheritance. Under the current system, when children lose their parents and are subsequently adopted they can lose their claim to inheritance.
- Expanding the definition of who can make a claim against the deceased's estate to include a person who was 'treated as a child of the family' even though they were not a child of the deceased's spouse or civil partner. Under the old rules the person had to be a child of the deceased's spouse or civil partner.
- Changes to the definition of 'personal chattels' which are basically an individual's personal belongings. Some moveable items could now be considered an investment and therefore not captured under the definition of personal chattels, whereas under the old provisions they would have been. This change in definition may mean you need to update your will to ensure that your personal belongings are left to those who you wish.
Notes to editors
Spouses/partners will inherit more under the new provisions. In the past, if a person died without a valid will and left behind a surviving spouse or partner, the spouse or partner would receive:
a) if the deceased had no children - the first £450,000 of the residuary estate - the property left over when all debts and administrative expenses have been paid from the estate - and anything up to the entirety of the remainder of the estate, depending what other surviving family (parents, siblings, etc.) the deceased had, or
b) if the deceased had children - the first £250,000 of the residuary estate, plus a life interest in half of everything else left in the estate.
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