Ministry of Justice
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Inheritance laws simplified

New laws simplifying what happens when someone dies without leaving a will come into effect today, Wednesday 1 October 2014.

The changes have been designed to speed up and modernise the process for dividing the money, property and other assets of someone who has died “intestate” (the legal terms for not having a will).

The reforms bring the law into line with the expectations of modern society and will make the process easier to manage for relatives and friends.

The changes, made in the new Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act, include:

  • When someone who has no children dies intestate, their whole estate will pass to their spouse. Before today’s changes a complex set of rules has been used which also, in some circumstances, allocated parts of the estate to other family members.
  • When someone dies intestate and they do have children, the way their estate is split between their spouse and children will be simplified. This has also previously been subject to a complex set of rules.
  • Closing a loophole to make sure children who are adopted don’t lose their inheritance after their parent’s death.

Justice Minister Lord Faulks said:

We want to make sure that when someone dies, and they haven’t left a will, their property will be dealt with sensibly and as quickly as possible. That is why we have made these common sense changes to modernise the law and make administering an estate faster and easier.

A large number of people do die without leaving a will each year, and I would encourage people of all ages to ensure they have properly considered making a will so that, if the worst happens, their own wishes are followed.

The law changes follow a review of intestacy law and consultation carried out by the Law Commission, an independent expert body.

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