The laws of intestacy  – which outline what happens to someone’s assets and possessions when they die without a Will – changed on 1st October 2014, but cohabitees are still not protected.

From October a major haul of intestacy law affects anyone who dies with more than £250,000 in assets. Find out more about the changes in our article ‘New inheritance rules when someone dies without a Will’.

No protection for cohabitees

Ahead of the changes many people were campaigning for people who have been living together with their partners for five years but not married to have rights to be able to inherit their partner’s estate, but nothing has changed. Cohabitees are not automatically entitled to a penny if their partner dies without a Will.

From October the rules for cohabitees have stayed the same and cohabitees still get nothing. That’s why it’s more important than ever that people living together unmarried must make a Will to protect their financial position in the event of their partner passing away. Find out more on how to protect yourself with our article ‘Living together? Why you need to write a Will’.

Changes for married couples without children

The people most affected by the new intestacy rules are married couples and civil partnerships without children. Under the old rules, if a spouse died without a Will and they had no children, then the first £450,000 of the estate, plus half of the rest, went to their spouse who survived them. The rest was split between the deceased’s blood relatives.

As of 1st October the surviving spouse receives the whole amount, and the blood relatives don’t get anything.

Changes for married couples with children

Married couples, or those in a civil partnership with children , are also affected by the new rules. Under the old laws, the surviving spouse received the first £250,000 automatically when their spouse died without a Will. Half of the remainder of the estate would be divided between their children (or held in trust if they are under the age of 18). The second half would also go to the children, but the surviving spouse would also have a ‘life interest’ in the money while they were alive. This ‘life interest’ meant that they could take income from the money, but not the capital.

As of 1st October the surviving spouse inherits the first £250,000 and then is fully entitled to half of the remainder. The children get half of anything above £250,000, but must wait until they are 18 to get their hands on it.