With two thirds of the population never having made a will, intestacy is a major issue in UK. The rules, originally made in 1925, are draconian and there has been constant pressure from consumer interest groups to water them down. With effect from the 1st October, this has happened to a degree. The main change in the rules is that surviving spouses will inherit a larger share at the expense of the claims of any children or in the absence of children, blood relatives. Under the previous rules, where there were no children, the spouse got the first £450,000 plus half the remainder, with the other half being distributed among relatives. Now, the surviving spouse will inherit all of the estate, no matter how large it is. Where there are children, in the past the spouse received the first £250,000 of the estate plus a life interest in half the remainder, the other half of the remainder all going to the children. Now the surviving spouse will receive the first £250,000 plus half the remainder. To the indignation of some, the reforms have no effect on unmarried partners, no matter how long they have been together.


One has to have some sympathy with the government here. How long must a couple live together to be considered effectively married? A year? 10 years? Or would just a couple of weeks do? Being somewhat old fashioned the remedy seems so simple; get married! Those who do not should be prepared to lie on the bed of nails they have made for themselves.


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