When the state controls inheritance

Tax being written up in chalk on a blackboard to support our article on how to reclaim UK tax


Julie Hutchison

19th April 2013 at 3:03pm

Several of my recent blogs have focused on the vital role inheritance planning can play in controlling how you pass on your wealth and when.

It’s also important to highlight the rules in place to help those who don’t plan ahead – a sort of default option. These are known as “intestate succession” rules.

In intestate succession rules if someone dies without a will, their estate is distributed according to certain criteria and the results may surprise you…

Currently, if a married couple doesn’t have children, and one of them dies, the usual assumption is that the widow(er) inherits the whole estate.

This however is not the case.

If one of the married couple dies without a will, the widow(er) only inherits everything if the deceased’s parents or siblings are no longer alive, or if the estate falls below a certain value. The widow(er) could find their parents-in-law or their late spouse’s siblings would be entitled to a share of the estate.

Some changes are afoot though, in England and Wales they are planning to modernise and simplify certain inheritance rules to more closely reflect the reality of families today.

Under the new rules the widow(er) would always inherits everything, in cases where there are no children.  It shifts the balance to be in favour of the widow(er) and away from the parents and siblings of the deceased.

This could have a positive impact on as many as 40,000 over 65s in the UK who are married, don’t have children, but have a living parent or sibling.

The rule change is still under discussion, but we will post any updates on here and on our Facebook and Twitter feeds to let you know when it will take effect.

In the meantime, no matter where you live in the UK, if you want to protect the position of your wife or husband, the best route is to follow the advice in the Law Commission Report:

“If this Report has one over-arching message to the public, it is this: make a Will and keep it under review.”

Find out more about inheritance rules and positive steps you can take.

Share your thoughts

Join the conversation and follow us on twitter @StandardLifeUK and Facebook to share your experiences or tips on inheritance.