Shake-up avoided on intestacy law

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AS PREDICTED in the Independent in April, the Lord Chancellor has backed away from a wholesale reform of the intestacy laws, writes Sue Fieldman.

Instead he has just tinkered with the figures and some minor rules.

If you do not make a valid will, you die intestate, and the law has strict rules what the surviving spouse inherits.

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay, was being pressed to reform the law in England and Wales so that the surviving spouse inherited all the estate.

Instead he has announced that where there are children, the surviving spouse will get the first pounds 125,000 of the estate (an increase from the current pounds 75,000). If there are no children, the spouse inherits the first pounds 200,000 instead of the current pounds 125,000.

He has also steered clear of treating co- habitees in the same way as spouses. There is to be no automatic provision for cohabitees. However, cohabitees will be able to apply for reasonable financial provision from the estate without having to prove financial dependence on the deceased.

The changes will be implemented 'when a suitable legislative opportunity occurs'.

In Scotland, the surviving spouse was given the right to the matrimonial home in 1964.