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Accessible legal tips, know-how and news for anyone with a complaint or legal issue from Stephen Gold, author of The Return of Breaking Law, the book

Thursday 16 January 2020

Spouse To Get More on No-Will Death

Some people find making a will  as appealing as electrocuting themselves. Does no will mean that your property goes to Boris or the fox at the bottom of the garden? No. The intestacy laws for England and Wales take over.

You are survived by a spouse or civil partner (which now includes an opposite sex civil partner) but no children. They scoop the lot.

You are survived by a spouse or civil partner PLUS children (even mature and ugly children). The first £250,000 goes to the spouse or civil partner and the rest is divided as to one-half to them and one-half among the children. The change in the law relates to that £250,000. For a death occurring on or after 6 February 2020, the £250,000 goes up to £270,000.  But note that if your home is owned jointly by you and your spouse or civil partner as joint tenants then your interest will automatically pass to them, so bypassing your estate, and will not be taken into the reckoning in the £270,000 and one-half of the rest. They will get the house on top. For the change, you can give thanks to the Administration of Estates Act 1925 (Fixed Net Sum) Order 2020 (SI 2020/33).

No surviving spouse or civil partner but children. The children get the lot.

No surviving spouse or civil partner and no children. Parents get the lot and, where neither is still with us, brothers and sisters or their descendants collect the lot. And so on down to half-uncles and aunts or their descendants and if everyone has disappeared off the face of the earth, then every penny goes to the state. And that, I suppose, would interest Boris.

Family members and certain others who miss out or don't get what they regard as a reasonable deal under the intestacy laws, can make a  legal challenge in the same way as when they fail to score adequately or at all under a will. 

Plenty more on how it all works and what you can do if you are aggrieved by a will or the intestacy laws in my book Breaking Law.