September 25, 2014
For the first time in decades the rules about what happens to your money when you die are changing. So what are the changes and how will they affect your money or what you get from relatives?
The UK rules about what happens when a person dies without having made a will, a term known as intestacy, change on 1 October 2014.
This is something that affects a lot of families – around one in three people die without a valid will in place.
The change of rules will adjust how much a spouse or civil partner is entitled to when there are no children and simplify how an estate is shared when there is a partner and children.
“The current Rules of Intestacy are quite archaic and only benefit spouses or civil partners and blood relatives regardless of feelings towards them. This could mean people who you want to inherit, for example friends or stepchildren miss out,” said Emma Myers, head of wills and planning for Saga Legal Services.
How the rules will change
Under the changes, partners will have greater rights when there are no children.
• Surviving spouses or civil partners. Where there are no children, if a spouse dies intestate then the surviving spouse or civil partner inherits the whole estate. Under the old rules they only received up to £450,000 and the rest was split between siblings and parents.
• Surviving children. Where children are involved, under the new rules, the surviving spouse or civil partner would inherit the first £250,000 and then half of the remainder of the estate, with the remaining assets being held for the deceased’s children. This has removed the life interest trust which only gave the spouse a right to receive the income from that half share.
• Siblings and parents. Previously, the siblings and parents of someone married and childless would have inherited a share of an estate if it was worth more than £450,000. But this is no longer the case as the entire sum goes to the surviving spouse.
What does this mean?
It’s still the case that, without a will, you cannot control who inherits and what they inherit – especially if there are no living relatives.
“If someone has no living relatives, their entire estate could be given to the crown, even if, for example, they had a long-term partner but were not married or in a civil partnership. This could lead to loved ones having to contest the state’s decisions, which could cost thousands of pounds in legal fees,” commented Emma Myers from Saga.
“Dying intestate also means that you would not be able to leave a charitable gift, and if children are involved, your family may not have a say in who becomes their legal guardian.”
Putting together your own will
It needn’t cost the earth to put together a will. You can actually create one for free with an online template through a provider, such as rocketlawyer.co.uk.
Unless your will is very straightforward, however, it’s probably worth paying a bit of money to have it checked over by a professional – especially as there are several types of will to choose from and it’s important to get the right one for you and your circumstances.
You can still save money on fees of a traditional high street solicitor, as some insurers now offer legal services.
For instance, customers of More Than home or car insurance can add Legal Services to their policy, priced at £20.67 or £24.99 respectively. The products allow customers to create a will that’s then checked over by a qualified solicitor.
Alternatively, you can shop around for quotes and agree a price upfront from high street solicitors or specialised online services, such as Saga’s Legal Services. Always get a few quotes before going with the best price.