Dying without a Will (intestate) does not a happy family make and its worse if you live together. by Eilish Adams - The Law House Family Law Solicitors, London & Peterborough

Dying without a Will (intestate) does not a happy family make and its worse if you live together. by Eilish Adams

By in All Blogs, Family Law, Wills, Trusts & Probate Category on March 24th, 2014

“It doesn’t make a damned bit of difference who wins the war to someone who’s dead.”- Joseph Heller

The same philosophy could apply just as well to a person who dies “intestate”, or without having made a Will.

The difference in the case of dying intestate, is that, unlike war, the outcome will then be decided by law. Dying without a Will can create a family war and as everyone knows these can go on for generations.

The intestacy rules which date back to 1925 sets out what happens to your assets if you hdie without making a Will.In addition, the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 allows certain family members and dependants to make a claim from a person’s estate for “reasonable financial provision”.This may not be what you want to happen.

For years many solicitors includign myself have felt that the intestacy rules have become outdated. I am glad to say that the bill currently going through the House of Lords will hopefully change the rules for the better. I am not sure what the normal family is anymore but the proposed changes aim to bring the rules more in line with modern society.

What are the changes?

There are many proposed changes but these are my top three.

Under the current law, if you die leaving a wife, but no children or grandchildren, then your wife would share the estate with your parents and/or brothers and sisters.The new rules will provide that the estate would pass entirely to your wife.This simplification is more in line with what most people would expect to happen.

Similarly, if you die and you leave a wife and children, the estate is divided between them all.A trust arrangement is created in favour of your wife.Under the proposed changes to the rules, this trust will be removed, simplifying what will happen in terms of the division of the estate between the family.

There are further changes relating to adopted children and children who are treated as being “a child of the family” even though they may not biologically be a child of the deceased parent.

Will the changes affect most families?

For married couples or those in civil partnerships, the reforms in the rules will generally make welcome changes.However, many couples simply live together and the rules will not apply to cohabiting couples in the same way.This is an area which is of relevance to many families in today’s society and we await further changes to bring the rules up to date for cohabitees.

If you would like advice about avoiding intestacy and making a Will to adequately provide for your family, please contact Eilish Adams at eadams@thelawhouse.com