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Intestate estates – spouses and civil partners will inherit more

The amount that spouses and civil partners with children can inherit if their partner dies without a valid Will in place is to be increased from next month.

From 6 February, the fixed sum paid to the surviving spouse or partner of someone who dies 'intestate' - in other words, without having made a Will - is to rise from £250,000 to £270,000.

This is known as the 'statutory legacy' and is reviewed by the government at least every five years. This is to ensure the amount partners can inherit is in line with the Consumer Price Index which measures how much the cost of living has gone up.

This means, from next month, under intestacy laws:

  • Spouses and civil partners with children will inherit all the deceased's personal property, the first £270,000 of the estate and half the remaining estate - the other half goes to their children;
  • If there are no children, as before, the partner inherits the entire estate;
  • Unmarried partners and close friends, as previously, cannot inherit.

Nothing beats making a Will

Although the increase in the amount some partners can inherit is to be welcomed, it is far better to make a Will than let the Rules of Intestacy dictate who inherits your estate.

Here are some key reasons why making a Will is so important:

  • A correctly drawn Will is an inexpensive way of avoiding difficulties for your relatives and friends in the future in the event of your death;
  • It's far cheaper than the cost for your relatives of sorting out your estate if you die without a Will and avoids financial stress at a time when they are already having to deal with your death;
  • It puts you in control of the destination of your estate and brings you peace of mind and freedom to enjoy your life knowing that your family, friends and the charities of your choice will be provided for as you wish;
  • You can appoint people you know and trust as the executors of your Will to deal with your estate and make sure everything is handled as you want for your beneficiaries;
  • You can appoint guardians to look after any children you have under the age of 18. This means that the courts are less likely to get involved and you know you have chosen people who share your beliefs and values;
  • You can appoint trustees to look after any money you want to leave your children until they reach the age when you want them to have it. This is particularly important if you have been divorced as control of this money could otherwise go to your ex-spouse;
  • A regularly updated Will means you won't miss out on fast changing tax laws that could save your family thousands of pounds in death duties including new Inheritance Tax rules and the additional 'residence nil rate band' threshold;
  • You can be clear about what kind of funeral you want, setting out everything from whether you want to be buried or cremated to the hymns and service you'd like;
  • Unless you make a Will, unmarried partners and those who have not registered a civil partnership cannot inherit;
  • There are some key times in your life which should act as a prompt to making a Will or updating an existing one. These are: Buying a house; Getting married; Moving in with a partner; Getting divorced; Having children.

For help and advice about making or reviewing your Will, please contact Wards Solicitors' Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team.

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