On Wednesday 26th July 2023 the Statutory Legacy under the Intestacy Rules will rise from the current £270,000 to £322,000. This is an important change that will impact many families in the future and reminds us all about the reasons why we should have a Will in place.  Bethan Creasey, Solicitor in our Wills, Probate & Estate Planning department, explains more about the change in the Statutory Legacy figure and how families can make preparations now.

What are the Intestacy Rules?

When a person dies without leaving a valid Will, their estate will be distributed according to certain rules, known as the rules of intestacy.

Everyone’s situation will be different depending on who has survived the intestate person and their relationship to them.  The general rule is that the estate will pass in the following order, however this will be determined by those people remaining in the family:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Aunts and Uncles
  • The Crown

This can leave some unaccounted for, particularly those who are divorced, have estranged children or cohabit instead of marrying or entering into a civil partnership, and it is a common myth that your assets will be passed to your unmarried partner if you live together and die without leaving a Will.

The rules tend not to take into account these modern relationship dynamics and currently no provisions are made for cohabitees, step-children or close friends. This can lead to distant family members inheriting in place of partners, friends or charities if a valid Will is not in place. Due to this and their tax inefficiency, the rules are often critiqued and the importance of having a valid Will in place is reiterated.

What is the Statutory Legacy?

Under the current Statutory Legacy in the intestacy rules, if an intestate person dies with a surviving spouse or civil partner and children, the Statutory Legacy of £270,000 (£322,000 after 26th July 2023) and any personal belongings are gifted to the spouse or civil partner with the rest of the estate, known as the residuary estate, then being shared.

Half of this residuary estate will go to the spouse or civil partner and the other half will be shared equally amongst the children.

Why is the increase in the Statutory Legacy important?

Whilst the increase to the Statutory Legacy may be welcomed by some, it is always recommended to have a valid Will in place and not rely on the intestacy rules to govern the future distribution of your estate.

This increase in the Statutory Legacy sum to £322,000 means your spouse will receive a far higher sum from your estate before your children receive their share as your spouse will receive both the legacy sum, plus 50% of the remainder of your estate.

The intestacy rules do provide for your family but this may not be in the way that you intend, leading to the potential for claims being made against your estate in the future and disgruntled beneficiaries at a time when everyone is grieving.  Writing your Will is also your opportunity to discuss how to efficiently plan for Inheritance Tax, whether this is through a Trust or giving to charity, for example.

Why should I make a Will and not rely on the intestacy rules?

There are many different reasons why you should have a Will in place, no matter your family circumstances.

  • A Will leaves you in control of who will inherit your estate, which will include everything from your property and financial assets, through to personal items such as family heirlooms or jewellery as well as your digital assets and business interests.
  • You can choose who will be involved in managing your estate, from your Executors, beneficiaries and guardians for your children. These roles should all be filled by people you know and trust to take care of your affairs in the future.
  • By discussing your circumstances with an experienced professional, you will have a wider understanding of how else a Will can protect your interests, for example by setting up a Trust.

As demonstrated, the best way of avoiding additional stress at an already difficult and emotional time for your loved ones is to make a Will and to choose who you would like to benefit and how.  To discuss writing your Will or reviewing your current one, contact Bethan or a member of the team today on 01722 412000 or email moc.n1709419994ellub1709419994rekra1709419994p@cab1709419994.

 

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice. All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.

Our contributor

Bethan Creasey

Solicitor

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