Recent legal change to affect couples without a Will

There are many assumptions around the issue of who would inherit after a death. Vincents Solicitors Patricia Prescott takes a look at recent changes in the intestacy law and helps to set the record straight.

“Intestacy is what kicks in when someone dies without a Will in place. That’s when the law has to get involved in deciding how to split and allocate an inheritance.

“There’s a set structure to this, as the flowchart below clearly demonstrates. What often catches people out, however, is the assumption that a surviving partner will automatically inherit everything.

“Without a Will, that is simply not true.

“Without a Will, the Intestacy Rules are applied and there is only one circumstance in which a surviving partner will inherit everything – if they were officially married or in a civil partnership and the deceased person had no children.

“Without a marriage or civil partnership certificate, the surviving partner has no claim to the estate and everything will go to any surviving children, parents, siblings, grandparents or aunts and uncles as outlined below.

“So if you are in a relationship and live in the same house – which is owned by only one of you – a Will is absolutely crucial to ensure the surviving partner is able to remain in the property.

“Similarly, for partners who are officially married or in a civil partnership, the full inheritance is not automatic if the person who died had children. Intestacy rules provide a portion of the estate to their children.

“The initial amount that a partner can inherit before children are considered went up last month from £270,000 to £322,000, an increase of £55,000 which broadly reflects the growth in home valuation over recent years.

“If the property is worth more than £322,000, the amount above that would be calculated and split half to the surviving partner and half between any children.

“In order for this sum to be paid, the surviving partner may have to sell the property – their home – particularly if the estate is worth considerably more than the £322,000 and it’s not possible to cover the costs another way.

“Given the intestacy process is often long and protracted, this could take years to be resolved and could create significant stress and animosity between the different parties.

“Of course it is quite simple to remove the potential for any conflict or anxiety for the surviving partner and wider family, and that is to make a Will.

“It can be done in just a few hours following a couple of conversations with a lawyer. And it doesn’t cost as much as people think. A basic Will with us here at Vincents starts from £150.

“Protect your loved ones by writing your Will as soon as possible.”

For more information contact Patricia Prescott at Vincents Solicitors in Lytham on 01772 348 922 or email