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Intestacy: Understanding the new statutory legacy

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IN THE REALM of estate planning and inheritance, intestacy laws play a crucial role in determining how a deceased person’s assets are distributed when they pass away without a valid Will writes Natasha Thorne (pictured), associate partner at Franklins Solicitors. Recent changes to intestacy law have influenced how assets will be distributed when this happens.

Unpacking the Concept of Intestacy Statutory Legacy

Intestacy statutory legacy is the minimum share of a deceased person’s estate that the law sets aside for specific beneficiaries, usually the surviving spouse or civil partner. This provision ensures that even if there’s no written Will, certain individuals receive a fair share of the estate.

The Necessity for Legal Revisions

Society evolves, and so do family structures and financial circumstances. As a result, the existing legal framework must adapt. One recurring concern has been whether the statutory legacy is sufficient, particularly in cases involving substantial estates or financial challenges faced by surviving spouses or civil partners. In response, lawmakers have revisited these laws to better address modern concerns.

Recent Legal Reforms

As of July 26, 2023, significant changes have been implemented. When an individual passes away without a Will, their surviving spouse or civil partner will now receive a minimum of £322,000, in addition to personal possessions like clothing and jewellery. The rest of the estate is divided, with half going to the surviving spouse or civil partner, and the remaining half shared equally among any children. If there are no children, the entire estate still goes to the surviving spouse or civil partner, consistent with the previous rules.

The Continued Importance of Having a Will

Even with these recent changes, creating a Will remains a critical aspect of estate planning. Intestacy rules provide a basic framework, but they cannot account for all situations. For instance, they don’t address the needs of unmarried couples who live together. Imagine a scenario where an unmarried couple jointly owns a home. If one partner passes away without a Will, complications can arise, potentially leading to the sale of the property.

Beyond asset distribution, a Will serves a more comprehensive purpose. It enables you to appoint guardians for minor children, specify bequests to individuals or charities, and designate trusted individuals or organizations to manage your estate effectively.

In summary, while the law provides some default rules, having a Will is a prudent choice. It grants you the ability to direct the distribution of your assets according to your wishes and provides clarity and protection in various complex situations that may arise. So, whatever your age, it’s wise to consider creating a Will to ensure your loved ones are taken care of as you intend.

Natasha Thorne TEP is associate partner for the private client department at Franklins Solicitors LLP.

For further information visit franklins-sols.co.uk 

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