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My wife gets everything if I die. Doesn't she?

"Only if you have made a will and left everything to her" Claire said. He replied "she would have it anyway" because he had heard a man in the pub say so.

Sometimes the only way forward is shock! The old rules of intestacy were very helpful with this when it was explained to a home-owning potential will maker that failure to leave a will could result in their widow having to sell the property to provide for their children. Before the change in the law earlier this year the shock factor worked rather well!

The sting has been removed a little, given the rise in the statutory legacy but the argument still remains valid.

When an individual does not leave a valid will their estate is distributed in accordance with a set of rules called the Intestacy Rules. These Rules are set out in legislation. They remained unaltered for many years recently they have been modernised with the latest amendments coming in February of 2020. Here is how they work:- Where deceased leaves a spouse/civil partner and child or children, the spouse/civil partner is entitled to a fixed statutory legacy. With effect for deaths on or after 6 February 2020, the fixed net sum is £270,000. Prior to this date it was £250,000. This is left to the surviving spouse. After this payment the surviving spouse receives all personal items of the deceased. The balance of the estate is then split so that half passes to the surviving spouse and half to the children of the deceased at eighteen.

Now this, on the face of it looks okay but it means that a significant portion of the estate of the deceased does not pass to their surviving spouse. The frequent argument made by the reluctant will maker is that the children would not cause a problem if they were to inherit. Practice shows different as money changes people! With an interest in the estate after the statutory legacy, adult children may have their own views and be prompted by third parties to enforce their strict rights. If there are no children or grandchildren then the spouse/civil partner will take the whole estate. This is a significant improvement as, prior to 1 October 2014, potentially distant relatives would have had an interest in part of the deceased's estate.

If this has not shocked an unwilling will maker it might be a good idea to let them know that in the future, when they ought to make a will, it might be too late as when people get older, their mental capacity diminishes.

Its up to all of us to make sure that we make wills and that our spouses/partners have them too. Let's avoid the Intestacy Rules and make sure those you wish inherit your estate, even those rusty old tools in the shed!

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