From 1 February 2010 new intestacy rules apply. “Intestacy” means dying without leaving a Will. Who inherits if you leave no Will? The law decides. In most cases it is better to make a Will. It is rarely sensible to write your own Will as the rules are complex. Two witnesses must sign in the presence of the person making the Will at the same time, and there are other legal complications. Get it wrong and the Will is void.
Andrew Kormornick, Principal of Kormornicks Solicitors, says:
“If there is no Will but a spouse (or civil partner) and children are left, the spouse now keeps all the assets up to £250,000 (up from £125,000) and in addition owns all the personal possessions whatever their value. Over £250,000, half of the remaining assets go on trust for the surviving spouse and the children receive the other half. Therefore someone dying leaving a house worth £1m and no other assets, for example, would find that their spouse has to sell the house to give the children half of £750,000 immediately. If they make a Will they do not have to do this. On the death of the surviving spouse in such a case, the half on trust goes to the children.
If someone dies without a Will and there are no children but there are brothers and sisters of the deceased, then the spouse receives possessions – £450,000 (up from £250,000 under the previous law) and half the remaining assets immediately go to the siblings with the balance on trust for them after the spouse’s death.
Now is a good time for you to make or update your Will. In addition, if you live with a partner and are not married but in a “civil partnership” with them, they have no rights to inherit although they may be able to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act if you were supporting them. If you wish a partner to inherit, it is simpler to make a Will which sets out your wishes expressly.
It may also be wise to have a written agreement about how any properties you jointly own will be handled if the relationship breaks down. This is also wise for those buying a property together who are not also in a relationship.
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