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No will? New rules change who will inherit

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Intestacy rules – which govern who will inherit from a person who has left no will – change today for the first time since 1925. What are the new rules?

Where old intestacy rules benefitted blood relations like siblings and parents, the new rules are better for spouses and civil partners – but unmarried partners are still out in the cold. Here’s how the new rules will affect your family:

Married with children

Married people or those in a civil partnership with children and an estate valued at over £250,000 can rest assured that the first quarter million they leave will go directly to their spouse or civil partner.

Half of any figure over that threshold will also go to the spouse or civil partner, with the other half going to the children. Where before a ‘life interest’ rule would protect the capital, this rule no longer exists.

Married without children

According to the old rules half of any amount over £450,000 would be inherited by blood relatives of the deceased, including parents and siblings. That rule is gone now – everything goes directly to the spouse or civil partner.

Unmarried couple with children

The estate goes directly to the closest blood relative, with children first in line, while unmarried partners are completely excluded. Even stepchildren are excluded – to see any inheritance at all you have to be a blood relation.

Unmarried couple with no children

Once again, the partner is left completely out in the cold. They are not entitled to a penny of their live-in partner’s estate. Instead the deceased is treated as if he or she were single at their time of death, with the entirety of their estate going to their closest blood relative. This could be anyone from a parent to a second cousin.

James Antoniou, head of wills for the Co-operative Legal Services, says: “In order to ensure that your estate goes to those you want to benefit, it is crucial that you take the right advice and put an effective will in place. Although it’s pleasing that the changes to the rules have simplified the matter, the fact remains: If a person dies without a valid will in place, they have no control over what happens to their estate.”

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