Need For Inheritance Law Change

Death Without a Will

07.07.2008

Legal experts have called for a change to the rate payable to parents with dependent children if their spouse or civil partner dies without a will.

Since 1993 husbands, wives and civil partners have been eligible for "statutory legacy" which amounts to the first £125,000 of the estate, plus the interest on half of what is left.

Geoffrey Shindler, President of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, told the BBC that change was urgently needed. Speaking about the case of a woman who last week brought a High Court action after the bulk of her husband's estate was passed to their children, he said: "The widow is actually suing her own children - it's a disaster - it's finding the remedy that's the problem."

He called for the rate to be increased immediately, to a minimum of £300,000, and for it to be index-linked to the retail price index.

The Department for Constitutional Affairs found that the statutory legacy could prevent the surviving spouse from receiving the whole estate in as many as 9,000 cases. In 2005, it produced a consultation paper which recommended the rate be increased to £350,000 for partnerships with children and up to £650,000 for those without.

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