The Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Bill was recently introduced into the House of Lords to look at reforming and simplifying the distribution of an estate through intestacy in England and Wales. In particular, the bill proposes that a surviving spouse will automatically inherit the estate of an intestate person, who dies without leaving children, without having to look at wider members of the deceased’s family. In cases where the deceased does have children, the estate is split between surviving spouse and children in definite legacies, rather than having to impose a complicated life interest trust under the existing law.
The bill also includes measures to extend the jurisdiction of family provision claims to allow claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 where the deceased was domiciled abroad, which at present only applies to deceased persons domiciled in England and Wales. The test is likely to allow claims to be made by any dependent who was ‘habitually resident’ in England or Wales. This is likely to create difficulties in getting foreign enforcement, as well as the risk of conflict. Interestingly, the government is unlikely to proceed with the Law Commission’s recommendation that an intestate person’s long-term cohabitant should be able to bring a claim against the estate under the 1975 Act.
In addition to those recommendations, there is likely to be removal of current laws, which can disadvantage unmarried fathers if their children die without a will. (e.g if a father is not classed as a parent under the current laws, they cannot inherit) As well as removal of current laws, which can prevent adopted children from receiving an inheritance from a biological parent if they were adopted after their death.
The proposals are due for second review later this year but to avoid intestacy, please contact our wills and wealth planning team on 01625 442148.