Everyone is advised to make a Will but over half of the adult population do not do so. Where there is no Will, the person’s estate falls subject to the intestacy rules which are statutory rules which govern how your possessions are divided. Many people fail to realise that, without a will, a surviving spouse or civil partner will not necessarily inherit all their assets.
With effect from 6 February 2020, the Lord Chancellor has increased the ‘fixed sum statutory legacy’ that a spouse or civil partner will receive from £250,000 to £270,000 – not a huge increase after 5 years of no change when viewed in the context of inflation and rising house prices. To understand why this should matter to you, this complex area of law is explained in some more detail below.
The division of your estate under intestacy rules depends on which relatives survive you. If a husband dies without a will leaving a wife and two children, the wife will receive all his personal belongings plus the statutory legacy up to the new limit of £270,000, with any remaining balance passing as to one half to the wife. The children will receive the remaining half of the balance in equal shares. In the scenario above, if the total amount is less than the statutory legacy sum, the wife will inherit everything.
Where someone dies without a Will and leaves a spouse or civil partner but no children or other descendants, the whole estate will pass to the spouse.
At what is already a traumatic time, you can avoid subjecting your nearest and dearest to the additional trauma of struggling with intestacy rules. With professional guidance, making a Will is not complex and you, not the government, can direct how your assets should be divided.