The law in England and Wales has now been simplified in relation to what happens when someone dies intestate (the legal term for not having a Will).

In an attempt to update what has been termed as ‘old’ legislation, as of 1 October 2014, new rules made by the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014 came into force affecting, amongst other things, the Intestacy Rules.

The changes

The main changes made by the new legislation are as follows:

  • For a couple without children, the surviving spouse/civil partner will inherit their spouse’s/civil partner’s entire estate rather than the first £450,000 and half of the rest with the remainder being shared amongst relatives.
  • If you are married/in a civil partnership with children then your spouse/civil partner gets to keep the first £250,000 and your personal possessions and half of the remainder. The other half is then divided between the children.
  • Making sure children who are adopted do not lose their inheritance after their parent’s death if they are adopted by another family before the age of 18. 

Why change inheritance law?

The Ministry of Justice state that the changes are designed to “speed up and modernise the process for dividing the money, property and other assets of someone who has died in intestate” and to “bring the law into line with the expectations of modern society”. 

What will be the outcome?

Now the law has been simplified by the changes, some potential beneficiaries will find themselves in a much better position. However, the changes could also lead an increase in claims from children who would have received more from their parents’ estates under the old rules.