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Check your Will following changes to inheritance law

The Law Society is urging people to consult their solicitor to check their Will is accurate and up-to-date following changes made to inheritance laws.

It points out that if you die intestate – without having a valid Will in place – or if your Will has not been written to the required legal standards, then your assets could be divided up in a way that you did not intend.

For example, if you are separated but not divorced, then your estranged partner will be entitled to more of your estate than your children if you do not have a valid Will that states otherwise. If you do not have children, your partner will inherit your entire estate. Your parents, siblings and other family members could end up with nothing.

The changes to the law mean you should check your Will with a solicitor to ensure your intentions for the division of your estate are clearly in place.

Over the past few years, there has been a rise in the number of people turning to unqualified Will writers and online do-it-yourself services. Wills written in this way are often not accurate enough to be legally enforced, and can cause huge amounts of stress and anguish for the families when a loved dies.

Law Society president Andrew Caplen said: “The changes to the intestacy rules serve as a reminder of the importance of having a Will. Dying without a valid Will not only mean your final wishes may go unheeded, but a financial and emotional mess is left for your loved ones to sort out. This need not be your final legacy.

“We urge people to use a qualified, insured solicitor because they are trained to spot and address the issues that could lead to trouble later. For full consumer protection the only prudent choice is to instruct a solicitor to prepare a will.”

The new legislation will also enable people who were ‘treated as a child of the family’ the right to make a claim on an estate, and adopted children will be better protected regarding inheritance from their birth-parents.

The definition of ‘personal chattels’ has also been slightly changed. These refer to a person’s belongings. Now, certain items can be classed as investments instead.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of Wills and Probate.