Welcome increase in statutory payout doesn’t hide the need to make a Will

A new law which brings in a small increase in the amount spouses and civil partners can inherit when someone dies without making a Will simply emphasises the huge importance of making a Will.

Michelle Hetheridge, Director of Wills & Estates, said the change in the statutory legacy which increases from £250,000 to £270,000 from 6 February 2020 would still not prevent a nasty shock for some spouses or civil partners.

She explained: “When someone dies without making a valid Will, they are said to have died intestate, a phrase which means that the law will determine who will inherit and how much of their estate.

“Under the Intestacy Rules, where there are no children, the spouse or civil partner does indeed inherit the whole estate.

“But, and this comes as a shock to many at a particularly sad period in their life, if there are children then currently spouses or civil partners will receive the personal chattels – the deceased’s personal effects – plus half of the residuary estate, but the other half of the residue will go to the children.”

She said that although the slight increase in the statutory legacy was to be welcomed, it still threw the spotlight on the importance of making a valid Will.

“The last thing you would want is that after you die, your loved ones are having to understand complex legal terminology and in all likelihood wait longer than necessary to receive any legacy that is coming to them.

“Far better surely then to lay out clearly and legally exactly what your wishes are so that your estate can be distributed with the minimum of fuss and delay to those it is intended for after your death.

“We are reluctant to talk about our own ultimate demise and what will happen then, but you owe it to your loved ones to leave everything sorted as best you can, and a Will is one of the best ways of ensuring that your intentions are understood and carried out.”

As many as 60% of UK citizens die without having made a Will, mistakenly believing their “other half” will inherit everything, and “contentious probate” – arguments over Wills – is one of the fastest growing areas of the law.

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