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The first increases in the amount a spouse or civil partner inherits under intestacy since 1993 will come into force on 1 February 2009, for those living in England and Wales.
The amount the widow or widower of an intestate spouse can inherit to £450,000 (from £200,000) if there are no children and to £250,000 (from £125,000) if there are children. In the latter case, the children would inherit the rest of the deceased's Estate.
According to the Nationwide Price Index, house prices have increased 229 per cent since the last intestacy increases in 1993, resulting in larger amounts of money left on death, which the current limits do not reflect.
On the other hand, the increase in statutory legacy is only 100 per cent for widowers of people who die and who have children, so their need to have a provision that accounts for the vast increase in house prices has not been satisfied.
The Institute of Professional Willwriters (IPW) is worried that this legislation may encourage more people to overlook the perils of intestacy. With only around one-in-five British consumers making a Will already, the intestacy issue could still be ongoing after the new changes.
IPW Chairman, Paul Sharpe, says: "The February 1 changes were a chance for the Government to adapt the intestacy laws to suit 21st Century family relationships and social and lifestyle trends. Instead, there has been a half-hearted attempt to adapt the intestacy thresholds so as to take house prices and inflation into consideration.
"The February 1 intestacy rules will still leave many English and Welsh consumers short-changed, having no status in the eyes of the law on the death of their partner, stepmother or stepfather, life-long friend or other relative, if that person did not make a Will. For many, who do not realise what will happen at some point in their future, this will be the ultimate heartache."
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