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Inheritance Law Changes

Changes to the rights of a person whose spouse or civil partner dies without making a Will have come into force – but will the new rules result in an increase in legal disputes? Iain Robson, head of the Wills and Probate department examines the issues.

The law governing inheritance when one spouse dies without making a Will has changed little over the last hundred years. But last October, new rules came into force that are designed to make the system fairer and address the concern that is has been difficult for those who deserve an inheritance to get one.

The key changes can be summarised as follows:

• For married couples with no children, the surviving partner will now inherit their spouse's entire estate, rather than £450,000 then half of the rest.
• For those with children, the surviving spouse will get the first £250,000 as before, but they will now get half of the remainder - rather than just interest on that amount.

The question now arises: will this result in an increase in legal disputes? The new rules, made under the Inheritance and Trustees' Powers Act, include increased inheritance rights for people who were effectively stepchildren of the deceased even though their parent was not married to them.

The changes remove a rule which meant children lost their right to inherit from a parent's estate when they become 18 if they were adopted by another family before that age.

As a result there may be an increase in claims from children who would have received more of their parents' estate under the old rules.

To ensure avoiding such disputes everyone should, of course, make a Will of their own, clearly stating their wishes.

To discuss this or any other matter relating to Wills, Probate or Lasting Powers of Attorney, please contact Iain Robson on 01325 466461 or email him

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