The United Kingdom inheritance laws are set in place to regulate how a person’s assets are dispersed upon their death.
When a will has been prepared in advance the courts will follow the division of assets as laid out in the will.
If a person dies without a will, called intestacy, their estate will pass into the hands of their spouse or civil partner.
This became legal practice when new inheritance laws were placed into effect by the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act of 2014. Under the old laws if a person died without a will their spouse inherited £450,000 and half of everything above that. The rest was divided among other relatives. Under the new law if a person dies without a will, and there are no children, their entire estate will pass into the hands of their spouse or civil partner.
If a couple have divorced or were merely co-habitating – without a civil partnership or marriage – then the partner will not inherit the estate.
Gay partners can inherit if they have entered into a civil partnership.
While the new laws work to the advantage of the spouse of a person who dies without a will, it does reduce the amount that the children of the deceased will inherit.
When the spouse of the deceased is no longer living, the children will inherit.
Grandchildren can only inherit if their parents have died.
If you feel you have been treated unfairly after the death of a relative you can seek the advice of a solicitor. They will tell you if you have a valid case or not. If you cannot afford a private solicitor, you may apply for help with legal aid.
When there are no surviving relatives the estate is passed to the Crown. This is called – bona vacantia. The government will then decide how the assets are dispersed.
Taxes will be owed if the deceased lived in the United Kingdom. If they lived somewhere else there is only U.K. inheritance tax on assets they owned in the U.K.
Preventing Estate Problems
To prevent legal battles between your beneficiaries it is best to have a legal will made up that states your wishes clearly. Name a person you trust to be the administrator of the will. If you are leaving assets to a minor you can appoint a trustee. Otherwise, the court will appoint one.
A will must meet the requirements of the probate court so it advisable to seek the help of a solicitor in preparing a will. This is especially true if your estate is large and you have specific requests as to how it is to be divided. For instance, if you have children from a previous marriage and you want to assure they receive a set portion of your estate.
Inheritance laws are complex and the counsel of a solicitor can help guarantee your wishes are followed.
Advance planning is the best option to make sure your estate if dispersed in the manner you wish and inheritance taxes are kept to a minimum.