Intestacy rules undergo first major change since 1925

1st October 2014

The Majority of adults admit they don't have a Will as Intestacy Rules undergo first major change since 1925

  • Rules which determine what happens to a person’s estate if they die and there is no Will change for the first time today (1 October).
  • England and Wales see first significant changes to the Rules since 1925
  • New research shows almost two-thirds of adults do not have a Will and that a quarter of over 65 years olds are still to make a Will.

As the first significant changes to the Rules of Intestacy since 1925 come into force today (1 October), new research from Co-op Legal Services reveals that two-thirds (60%) of adults, do not have a Will* - as a result, they could be at risk of losing control over their estate if they die.

The research uncovers the most common misconceptions as to what happens to a person’s estate if they die without leaving a Will. Overall 14% of people admit they do not know what will happen to their estate when they die. And almost a third (32%) believe their children will automatically inherit their estate, with 1 in 10 people believing it will be split between their siblings (8%) or shared equally among all their relatives (7%).

Amongst the key changes to the Rules, from October 1st, couples who are married or in a civil partnership will inherit the entire estate if their partner dies without leaving a Will and they did not have children or other descendants. However, this change does not apply to unmarried couples as they will not automatically have rights to their partner’s estate if they die without leaving Will.

James Antoniou, Head of Wills, for Co-op Legal Services comments: “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. If a person dies intestate (without a Will) they lose control over what happens to their estate which could mean that their final wishes about what happens to their savings, assets and investments are not met. “Although it’s pleasing that the changes to the Rules have simplified matters, the fact remains, if a person die without a valid Will in place, they have no control over what happens to their estate.”

Other key changes include:

  • Protection for children who are subsequently adopted following the death of a parent - The new rules allow a child of the deceased to inherit on intestacy, even if they are subsequently adopted.
  • Modernisation of what the rules define as chattels (or personal property) - Chattels (personal property) is now defined as anything that is not monetary, business assets or ‘held as investment’.  Previously, this extended to items including; crockery, horse and cart and clothing.
  • Changes to the inheritance of an estate for married couples or civil partners with children.

The research also highlights the main reasons people haven’t decided to make a Will.  Almost two fifths (41%) of adults say they ‘haven’t got around to it’, over a quarter (26%) don’t believe they have anything of any value and one fifth (20%) think they are too young.  There are also one in ten people (12%) who have put off making a Will because they ‘don’t like thinking about death’.  

Austin Gill, Head of Probate for Co-op Legal Services said: “It’s concerning that a quarter of those over the age of 65 do not have a will. When someone dies without leaving a valid will, we must carefully draw up a family tree to establish who is entitle to inherit from that estate. Depending on the complexity of the family, the administration of the estate can be prolonged. Often we are tasked with tracing people overseas which delays a family being able to have closure following a death.”

There are a number of things consumers need to know about the changes to the Rules of Intestacy and how they might be affected.

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