Do we no longer need a will?

The Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014 came into force on 1 October and reforms the law that governs how the deceased person's estate is divided if they didn't leave a will.

A Close Up Of TypewriterThis change will influence mainly those who have died and left more than £250,000 in assets.

How does this work?

If the deceased leaves a surviving spouse but no children, the surviving spouse would inherit everything. On the other hand, if the deceased had children then the surviving spouse partner would inherit the first £250,000 (statutory legacy) as well as being entitled to half of the remainder. The children would get half of anything above £250,000 but can only use it once they reach the age of 18.

Furthermore, an adopted child is given some recognition and the law entitles them to claim from an inheritance. The definition of who can make a claim to an estate has been expanded to include a person who is ‘treated as a child of the family’.

The law also abolishes life interest, meaning that up until now the partner of the deceased could take income from the money, but not the capital. However, the partner is now entitled to benefit from both income and capital.

Andrew Caplen, president of the Law Society welcomes these changes and has stated that the law raises awareness of the importance of having a will: “Dying without a valid will not only means your final wishes may go unheeded, but a financial and emotional mess is left for your loved ones to sort out. This need not be your final legacy.” He strongly recommends people to use a qualified solicitor as they are trained to catch out and deal with issues that could lead to problems later on.

Another key change affects the statutory legacy which, as mentioned above, is now £250,000 and is set to increase at least every five years, in line with the consumer price index.

The definition of the term “personal chattels”, which previously meant a personal possession, has now been defined as anything that is not monetary, business assets or “held as an investment”. This requires will writers to be extra diligent when determining the clients assets. 

It will be interesting to see how the law is interpreted in a court of law and how it is dealt with when challenged. For now it appears to clarify and update the law in line with the complexities of a modern family.

It protects the family where a will was not written but does not replace it in its entirety. Each family has different needs and we cannot rely on one set of rules to fit every household. It's safe to say we will still need to visit our high street firms to have our wills written up for a long time to come!

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