Legal Viewpoint: New laws make writing a will more important than ever

By Rob Virtue on August 12, 2014 4:00 PM |

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Rose Walker of Grant Saw Solicitors

New rules on what happens when someone dies without making a will are expected to come into force on October 1, 2014.

The changes affect the intestacy rules, which govern how a person's assets are distributed if they die without a will - which is known as dying 'intestate'.

Under the old rules, where someone dies intestate leaving a spouse or civil partner and direct descendants such as children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, the spouse/partner would take the first £250,000 and personal belongings. They would then have a life interest in one half of the balance, and the children would take the other half of the balance.

A life interest means that the surviving spouse can use the property or receive its income until their own death at which point the property passes to the deceased's children.

Under the new rules, the surviving spouse or partner still receives the first £250,000 and the personal belongings, but they receive half the balance absolutely, so it is their own property.

The remainder of the balance continues to go to the children.

Another change is that, where a person dies intestate leaving a surviving spouse or civil partner but no children, the surviving spouse or partner will take the whole estate.

Under the old rules the spouse or partner would take the first £450,000 but would have to share any balance with the deceased's family, i.e. parents, siblings or nephews and nieces.

The rules were last reviewed back in the 1970s and we've seen big changes in what defines 'family' since then. Although the new rules are welcome, and well overdue, without a will, you still can't make sure that your family will be cared for in the way you would wish.

Whatever your marital status it's worth making a Will - but if you're not married and have significant assets such as property in sole names, then it should be top of your list.

It's also important where there is a second marriage with children from previous relationships.

Making a will is something that people often put off but it's not a difficult thing to do and it means you get the outcome you want.

Rose Walker is the chartered legal executive of Greenwich-based Grant Saw Solicitors