From the 1 October 2014, the rules about what happens to your assets if you don’t leave a Will have changed.
The rules, although they have been simplified, still mean that if you die without leaving a Will, your affairs may not be dealt with in accordance with your wishes.
Briefly, if you die leaving a surviving spouse (or civil partner) and children, your spouse will receive the first £250,000 of your estate together with your personal belongings and half of what is left. Your children then receive the other half.
If you don’t have children, then your surviving spouse or civil partner will receive the whole of your estate. Previously the amount had been capped to £450,000, meaning that for larger estates this resulted in having to share the estate with parents or siblings of the deceased.
Whilst the new rules simplify matters, current house prices make it likely that where there are children, even a relatively modest estate will not see the survivor inheriting everything.
For higher value estates, it becomes all the more important to ensure that you have thought about how you wish your assets to pass on death and what steps you wish to take to minimise any inheritance tax that would otherwise become payable.
Equally, for those in second or third marriages who may wish assets to pass to children on the first death, they may find that these new rules give far too much priority to the surviving spouse. If you have children from a previous marriage you will need to seriously consider what your wishes are, whilst ensuring that the survivor of you and your new spouse is left with adequate means with which to support themselves.
In addition to modifying the rules on who gets what, this new Act makes it easier for dependants to claim financial support from a deceased partner or parent if they feel that they have been left out. If you’re unmarried, the rules do not change the fact that your partner will receive nothing so make sure that you have made provision for them. If not, they may decide they have no choice but to make a legal claim on your estate.
All things considered, it still remains vital that you make a Will to clearly set out who you wish to benefit from your money and property on your death so don’t put it off any longer.