1st October 2014
Nearly two thirds of Britons have no will, a new study has revealed, as rules on what happens to those who die intestate change for the first time since 1925 today.
Under the new rules, you will be less likely to get a surprise payout from a long-lost relation. There will be no provision for common law spouses and spouses who are childless will now be entitled to the full estate rather than sharing it with other blood relatives, as they would have done previously.
The only way to override these rules is to make sure that you write a will specifying who you want to receive your money. However, 60% of adults have yet to do so, according to the research by Co-operative Legal Services.
Even among over-65s, a quarter have not yet written a will and are running the risk of dying intestate.
There are common misconceptions about what will happens to people who die without a will, but 14% of people admit that they don’t know. Furthermore 32% believe their children will automatically inherit their estate, 8% think it will be split between their siblings and 7% assume it will be shared equally between their relatives.
From today, 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.
The new rules also protect children who are adopted after their parents die intestate, ensuring that they will still receive their inheritance where previously there was some ambiguity.
Austin Gill, head of probate for the Co-operative 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 entitled 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.”