The Scottish Government has announced changes to the law that will allow more people to stay in their homes if their husband, wife or civil partner died without leaving a Will

Under the current law, the spouse or civil partner of someone who dies without making a Will has a "prior right" to receive the home that they shared.  However, this right has an upper limit of £300,000.  If the home is worth more than £300,000, the property often has to be sold, with the proceeds then subject to competing claims by the deceased's children or siblings.

The Government has announced an extension to this right.  From 01 February 2012, the upper limit will be increased to £473,000.  The increase will offer additional protection for those who have lost a loved one and are left to deal with the consequences when no Will has been made.  It means that many more people will be able to stay in the family home they shared with their spouse or civil partner, sparing them the distress and disruption of being forced to leave their homes at such a difficult time.

Figures for the United Kingdom show that a shockingly high proportion of people die without leaving a Will - nearly one in three people die intestate and half of all people over the age of forty-five do not have a Will.  In the context of these figures, one can appreciate why the Government has decided to give additional protection in cases where Wills have not been made.

In commenting on the changes, the Minister for Community, Safety and Rural Affairs stated: "It is a reminder to us all just how important a document a Will can be."

Reacting to the changes, the Communications and Campaigns Manager for Age Scotland endorsed that view.  The Scotsman report him as saying: "We think that it is a good thing, as it will mean that more people will be able to stay in their property after their partner has died.

"However, what this should really highlight is the importance of making a Will.  The fact remains that there are too many people dying intestate.  These disputes [over the forced sale of property] would not arise if a Will had been made".

Susan Masterton, partner and head of personal legal service at Blair Cadell also welcomed the changes, but commented that a Will remained the only way to ensure that your wishes are carried out and to avoid unnecessary disputes, expense and delay.

She commented: "It is an all too familiar story.  People have a tendency to assume that there is no need to make a Will as the law will automatically ensure that those whom they want to benefit will in fact benefit on their death.  Unfortunately, they are often mistaken - and while the changes now announced must be welcomed as going some way to address this misconception, they do nothing to lessen the often very considerable extra delay and expense that always results when someone dies without a Will.

"The cost of making a Will is of nothing compared to the expense and delay involved in dealing with the affairs of someone who has died without leaving a properly prepared Will".

Go to http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2011/12/12092338 for further information

 

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