If you die without leaving a Will, your estate would be passed down under the rules of intestacy. These have been updated recently.
The Statutory Legacy (what your spouse would receive)
The statutory legacy determines how much the surviving spouse or civil partner would receive where the deceased died without a Will and leaves children. From 26th July 2023 this amount has increased. The first £322,000 (an increase of £52,000) would go to the surviving spouse or civil partner and the remainder divided equally between the survivor and the children.
Does this apply to the unmarried partner?
Many are under the (incorrect) assumption that an unmarried partner can benefit where someone dies without a Will. This is not the case, and many have lobbied for a change to that for some time. However, under the new rules, sadly common law partners are still not entitled to benefit under the laws of intestacy so if you do want your partner to benefit from your estate on your death, you should write a Will.
What other changes are to come about?
Currently, the age at which children can inherit under the intestacy rules is 18. This will be increased to 19. The rules on how step-children and half-siblings inherit are also to be made clearer.
Can inheritance be re-directed?
Providing the beneficiaries are over the age of 18, in agreement and have capacity, the estate can be varied by entering into a deed of variation. Specific advice will need to be sought though.
What about Joint Property? Property held as Joint Tenants will pass to the other joint owner, and not follow the rules of intestacy.
The golden principle remains that, if you want your estate to be distributed as you wish, you should write a Will.