If a person dies without leaving a valid Will the laws of intestacy spell out who is entitled to what. Unmarried partners, close friends and carers have no right to inherit (unless property is jointly owned in a certain way), even if that was the intention of the deceased. Even worse, if there are no surviving relatives not even a charity will automatically benefit – all your hard earned wealth goes to the Crown!
On 1 October 2014 the laws of intestacy changed, and an intestate’s estate will now be distributed as follows:
- The entire estate goes to the surviving spouse or civil partner if there are no children or grandchildren, or if the estate is worth less than £250,000. Note that a surviving spouse who is separated but not divorced is still entitled to benefit.
- If there are children, and there is no surviving spouse or civil partner, the children will inherit the estate equally between them. Grandchildren will not benefit unless their parent has died before the intestate, or their parent died after the intestate but before their 18th birthday.
- If there are children, and a surviving spouse or civil partner, then the children will inherit equally half the estate over £250,000. If the estate is worth less than £250,000 the children inherit nothing.
Close relatives may benefit, but whether they do will depend on a number of factors, including whether spouses or children of the deceased are still alive.
There are many reasons people make a Will, not least because the laws of intestacy may not distribute their estate in the desired way. People may want to undertake inheritance tax planning, provide for non family members, or use trusts to protect wealth for future generations. Although the rules of intestacy can be varied in a family arrangement, everyone who would benefit under the rules of intestacy must agree.
Here at Burgis & Bullock we can assist with inheritance tax planning and passing on wealth tax efficiently. For further information contact our Tax Experts on 0845 177 5500 or use our on-line contact form for a free initial consultation.