Having heard there would be a change to the law on 1st October governing the distribution of a person’s estate when they have died without a valid Will, I was optimistic that this area of the law would be improved. Anyone who has experience or has even seen the old rules would be puzzled as to how they were ever thought to work fairly and effectively. They could often result in a recently bereaved husband or wife trying to make sense of rules that leave them struggling to bring up a young family with an impenetrable trust fund hanging over their head; or a widow having to share a large part of her late husband’s estate with her mother-in-law. The death of a partner is traumatic enough without the additional stress and financial hardship caused by 19th century legislation. Most would agree that the old rules needed to be changed.
Perhaps inevitably the new provisions, given the wide range of modern families, remain imperfect and, all too often, still flawed.
As a starting point you will see that the new law still makes no allowance for a couple living together without having married or being in a civil partnership. In such a scenario, should one of them die leaving children (from that relationship or even previous relationships) then those children are entitled to automatically inherit (at the mature and responsible age of eighteen….), with the surviving partner, even under the new rules, still entitled to nothing.
Under the ‘new improved’ legislation, even for a married couple or civil partnership, the effect of dying without a Will remains precarious for many. A married couple with children from a previous relationship can find a situation where the deceased’s estate is divided between the surviving spouse and all the deceased’s children, thus providing insufficient provision for the surviving spouse to continue living in the property and unable to enjoy the same standard of living for the whole family unit.
Whilst the law cannot be expected to allow for every situation, there is, of course, an easy solution to enable you to decide what should happen to your property, money and savings in the event of your death. Having a professionally drawn Will based upon your own specific requirements and the needs of your loved ones provides the opportunity to ensure that you write your own set of rules and wishes, regardless of the changes in the law on the 1st October.