Where there isn't a will, there will be a better way... for the surviving spouse or civil partner
October 2014

Article 1 - Where there isn't a will, there will be a better way... for the surviving spouse or civil partner - Tahina Akther

The Inheritance and Trustees' Power Bill received Royal Assent on 14 May, to become the Inheritance and Trustees' Power Act 2014 ('the Act') the changes are due to come into force in October 2014.

The Act makes several amendments to the intestacy rules which the govern the distribution of an estate in the absence of a will. As well as making changes to the issues around the law of inheritance.

In general terms, the Act changes the default distribution to make it more favourable to a surviving spouse or civil partner of the deceased in two ways:

The first, is where the deceased is survived by issue (which means direct descendants - children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren etc.). The surviving spouse is currently entitled to a statutory legacy of £250,000 plus the deceased's personal goods. The spouse also benefits from a life interest in half of the residue of the estate, with the other half being distributed between the issue. Under the Act, the spouse will now inherit half of the estate absolutely, in place of the life interest.

The second, is where the deceased leaves no issue behind but is survived by at least one parent or one full sibling. The spouse currently receives a statutory legacy of £450,000, the deceased's personal goods and half of the residue outright (with the other half passing to the surviving parent or sibling). Under the Act, the spouse will take the entire residuary estate absolutely.

Whilst these changes will assist surviving spouses and civil partners in reality they could throw up issues of reasonable provision for other dependents if the spouse is now to benefit from a share of the estate. It does not lessen the importance of making clearly worded wills, as the inheritance rules can be arbitrary, without full consideration of individual circumstances.

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