Regarding rules of intestacy, our panellists Hugh James Solicitors say that from Thursday (6 February):
the statutory legacy amount your spouse or civil partner can inherit if you pass away without leaving a will is set to increase from £250,000 to £270,000.
They will also still have entitlement to 50% of the estate above this sum, with the remaining 50% being split equally among your children.
In essence: if you have no children, your spouse or civil partner will inherit your entire estate.
This is because, if you die without leaving a will, your estate will be dealt with under the rules of intestacy. On this point, it is important to remember the following.
Say you have a partner but not by marriage or in a civil partnership with. Accordingly, they have no entitlement to inherit anything at all under the rules of intestacy.
In a situation where you have no children but do have a partner outside marriage or in a civil partnership with, the rules of intestacy state that the estate would go to your legal next of kin. Normally, this would be your parents if they are still alive. Alternatively, if you have any siblings, they would be next in line to inherit your estate. Otherwise, your estate would pass to increasingly more distant relatives, such as your cousins, nieces or nephews.
New rules of intestacy pondered in House of Lords
Similarly, it’s also worth noting that a proposal is currently going through the House of Lords regarding intestacy. In essence, it would change the rules governing inheritance tax for cohabiting siblings. Under the proposals, cohabiting siblings in all parts of Great Britain would be able to leave their estates to each other.
Moreover, they can do so without incurring any inheritance tax regardless of the size of the estate. To qualify, the siblings must live together at some point for at least seven years. Additionally, the surviving sibling would have to be over the age of 30.
We highlight this because it’s a long-overdue step in the right direction. In short, it acknowledges that many people are now unable to buy a home on their own. Accordingly, they have to pool resources with someone else (a sibling, perhaps) simply to be able to afford it
But these rules of intestacy don’t go far enough
In particular, these proposals would not change the inheritance tax rules governing cohabiting couples. Therefore, say you do leave a will that left your estate to your cohabiting partner. Regardless, they would still pay inheritance tax at a rate of 40% on the value of the estate above £325,000.
We now live in a society may choose to live together without marriage or entering into a civil partnership. We would argue that the law is not keeping up with and reflecting society. It should do.
Therefore, it is important to ensure you draw up a will to make sure that your estate splits how you want it to split. This is particularly important if you and your partner live together and the home is in your name. As such, your partner may then have no legal right to continue living there.
This would still be the case, even if your partner contributes to paying the bills and mortgage on the property. That’s because the law would only tackle the name on the deeds of the property. In addition, the rules on statutory legacy also mean that your partner has no right to claim any items of sentimental value either.
The Importance of a Clear Will
Avoid what would likely be a lengthy legal wrangle. In short, your partner would need to provide extensive proof that they made contributions towards
- paying the mortgage and;
- the upkeep of the property in order to simply recoup the amount they put into the estate’s value
It’s important then to draw up a will that details exactly who you want to have the different parts that make up your estate. You can even specify that certain people can certain individual possessions. Otherwise, your surviving family member, spouse or civil partner may end up in a legal dispute over who gets what.
If your partner dies intestacy or you feel that you have grounds to dispute an estate, act now. Just contact The Inheritance Experts by filling in the contact form on our website or by calling 0161 413 8763.