The Law Society has said the advent of new intestacy rules highlights the case for consumers to use a qualified solicitor to write a will.
New provisions in the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014 – which come into force on 1 October – change the way a person’s estate is divided if they die without a valid will.
If the deceased person has a spouse or civil partner but no children, their surviving partner will inherit everything. Currently the other person has to share the estate with the deceased’s surviving parents or siblings.
If the deceased person has children, the surviving spouse will receive the statutory legacy of £250,000 plus the deceased's personal belongings (as well as half the estate).
Andrew Caplen (pictured), president of the Law Society, said the new rules raise the issue of what happens in cases of separation or estrangement.
He said: ‘The changes to the intestacy rules serve as a reminder 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.
‘We urge people to use a qualified, insured solicitor because they are trained to spot and address the issues that could lead to trouble later.’
The Society’s consumer campaign encouraging people to use a solicitor focuses on the issue of wills.
The new intestacy laws also alter the position of adopted children to ensure they do not lose any potential claim to inheritance, and expand the definition of who can make a claim to an estate to include a person ‘treated as a child of the family’.
The statutory legacy will now rise, at least every five years, in line with the consumer prices index.