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Changes to inheritance law

Posted by on in Wills & Probate
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The Law Commission has made recommendations to bring inheritance law into line with the needs and expectations of modern families, and simplify the law to help the bereaved deal with the property of a deceased family member.

The recommendations in the Commission’s report would update the law that determines the entitlements of spouses and others, and remove unnecessary obstacles to valid claims for family provision.

The draft Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Bill includes reforms that would:

  • ensure that where a couple are married or in a civil partnership, assets pass on intestacy to the surviving spouse in all cases where there are no children or other descendants;
  • simplify the sharing of assets on intestacy where the deceased was survived by a spouse and children or other descendants;
  • protect children who suffer the death of a parent from the risk of losing an inheritance from that parent in the event that they are adopted after the death;
  • amend the legal rules which currently disadvantage unmarried fathers when a child dies intestate;
  • remove arbitrary obstacles to family provision claims by dependants of the deceased and anyone treated by the deceased as a child of his or her family outside the context of a marriage or civil partnership;
  • permit a claim for family provision in certain circumstances where the deceased died “domiciled” outside of England and Wales but left property and family members or dependants here; and
  • reform trustees’ statutory powers to use income and capital for the benefit of trust beneficiaries (subject to any express provisions in the trust instrument).

The draft Inheritance (Cohabitants) Bill contains further provisions that would give certain unmarried partners who have lived together for five years the right to inherit on each other’s death under the intestacy rules. Where the couple have a child together, this entitlement would accrue after two years’ cohabitation, provided the child was living with the couple when the deceased died.

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