Changes to the Intestacy Rules: Effective from February 2009

The Intestacy Rules that regulate the distribution of the estate of a deceased person who dies without a Will have recently changed.

This is how the new Intestacy Rules will have effect.

If a person dies intestate after 1 February 2009 with a surviving spouse or civil partner and children the new Intestacy Rules provide that the spouse/civil partner will be entitled to a £250,000 statutory legacy (previously £125,000), the deceased’s personal possessions and a life interest in half of the residue of the estate. This means that half of the residue goes into trust so that the spouse is entitled to receive the income from it but not the capital. The capital is reserved for the children who can have access to it when the spouse dies. The children will be entitled to half of the residue immediately and the other half (that is subject to the life interest) will revert to them upon the spouse’s death.

If a person dies intestate after 1 February 2009 leaving a spouse or civil partner but no children the new Intestacy Rules provide that the spouse/civil partner’s statutory legacy increases to £450,000 (previously £200,000) plus the personal possessions. The residue is again divided into two. However, the spouse is entitled to half absolutely (meaning it does not go into trust and they are entitled to the capital as well as the income). The other half goes to the relatives of the deceased in the following order of priority:-

  • Parents
  • Brothers or sisters or their children
  • Half brother or sisters or their children
  • Grandparents
  • Uncles or aunts or their children
  • Half uncles and aunts or their children
  • If none of the above then this half will go to the Crown.

If a person dies intestate after 1 February 2009 leaving a spouse only and no siblings, nephews or nieces then the new Intestacy Rules provide that they will be entitled to the whole estate.

If a person dies intestate after 1 February 2009 being unmarried with children then the new Intestacy Rules provide that the children will be entitled to the whole of the estate equally (or their children if they have predeceased). Any unmarried partner would need to make a claim against the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants Act) 1975 seeking financial provision from the estate.

If a person dies intestate after 1 February 2009 being unmarried with no children then the new Intestacy Rules provide that your surviving relatives will inherit in the following order:-

  • Parents
  • Brothers or sisters or their children
  • Half brother or sisters or their children
  • Grandparents
  • Uncles or aunts or their children
  • Half uncles and aunts or their children
  • If none of the above then the whole estate will go to the Crown.

These recent changes to the Intestacy Rules highlight the particular need for unmarried couples or families with step children to make a Will as they are still not provided for under the intestacy provisions. If you want to make a Will or contest the intestacy provisions applying to the estate of a loved one who has passed away then please contact us.