Estate Planning: What assets will your spouse get when you die?  The law has changedChanges to the law, governing how assets are distributed when a person’s spouse or civil partner dies without having made a will, have come into force.

The current rules are complex and assets do not, as many people believe, automatically pass to the surviving spouse. Here’s our basic guide to the new rules:

Existing rules

As it stood before the rule changes:

  • Married couples with no children The surviving spouse inherited the first £450,000 and half of the remaining assets
  • Married couples with children The surviving spouse inherited the first £250,000 and a life interest in the remaining assets, but no access to the capital

New rules

Following the changes, which will only apply in England and Wales, the following will apply:

  • Married couples with no children The surviving spouse will now inherit all of their partner’s estate
  • Married couples with children The surviving spouse will continue to get the first £250,000 of assets, 50% of the remainder and a life interest in the remaining 50%, albeit with no access to this capital

Will confusion

Many married couples without a will simply assume all the assets pass to their spouse. Even after the recent rule changes this isn’t the case and there are plenty of other reasons why making a will is important:

  • Control Making a will is the only way of controlling how assets are distributed on your death. Without a will they will be divided up in line with the laws of intestacy, some of which we have outlined above
  • Children If you have children your will normally contains your instructions for their care after your death
  • Gifts If you want to make specific gifts or bequests after your death a will is the simplest way of doing so
  • Inheritance Tax planning A carefully drafted will can help to reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax paid by your estate, this is especially true if you are married
  • Charitable donations Many people plan to make a donation to charity when they die, a will is the best way of doing this

Need to make a will? Will Aid is just around the corner

Will Aid, which runs in early November, will give the millions of people in the UK the ideal opportunity to get a professionally written will for a fraction of the normal cost.

Look out for more details of Will Aid on our website over the next few days.

In the meantime if you have any questions or queries about what happens to your assets when you die our team of advisers are here to help you and can be contacted on 0115 933 8433 or by emailing

Please note: The FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) does not regulate Will Writing or Tax Planning

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