Why make a will? A reminder of the rules on intestacy

Why should you make a will? One of the major reasons is to avoid what is known as ‘intestacy’. Which is simply the legal term used for dying without a will or with an invalid will.

But please note that this article only applies to people living in England and Wales. This is because it is a recap of the changes brought about by the recent Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act 2014. (People living in Scotland, Northern Ireland or elsewhere have different rules applying to them.)

The major change is that a spouse will now receive a larger statutory legacy on intestacy and will receive the entire estate if there are no children – previously, they sometimes had to share it.

For deaths occurring in England and Wales on or after 1 October 2014 the situation is now as follows:

A. A person dies and there is a spouse or civil partner and no children
• The spouse/civil partner takes the entire estate absolutely.

B. There is a spouse or civil partner and children, on death
• The spouse/civil partner receives all the personal chattels (possessions) absolutely and a statutory legacy of £250,000 plus interest at 6%, plus half the balance of the remaining estate.
• The children receive the other half of the balance of the remaining estate (in a statutory trust if they are under age 18)

C. There is no spouse or civil partner, but there are children on death
• The children receive the entire estate absolutely, subject to statutory trusts (they are under age 18).

Please note that when I say ‘children’, it has a wider meaning in practice and includes all lineal descendants; that is, children, grandchildren and so on. If a child dies before their parent(s), but has left children of their own, those grandchildren will between them take the share of their deceased parent.

D. If there is no spouse/civil partner or children
These relatives receive the whole estate in the following order and if there is nobody, then the next class benefits:

(i) Parents
(ii) brothers and sisters
(iii) half-brothers and half-sisters
(iv) grandparents
(v) uncles and aunts
(vi) uncles and aunts, who are parents of half-brothers and half-sisters

In the absence of all the above the Crown, Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall takes the whole estate.
Is this what you want to happen? You can easily over-ride these rules by making a simple will for a modest cost.

Something that everyone should consider in any event.

For more help and advice please do not hesitate to contact us at Hoskin Estate Planning.