Changes have been made to the intestacy rules but making a Will is still the best option.
However, in reality these new rules are still far from ideal, as illustrated by a recent case of ours :
A married couple with no children (let’s call them Anne and Bob) split up five years ago. They have been separated ever since and have only seen each other at a couple of rather awkward family gatherings. They never got round to a formal divorce. However, Anne, went on to form a relationship with a new partner Chris three years ago and recently they bought a flat together.
Neither Anne nor Bob made a Will. One morning, Bob received a phone call to inform him that Anne had died suddenly. As Anne died without a Will, the intestacy rules apply to her estate. Under these new rules (and because there were no children), the whole of Anne’s estate passes to Bob, as Anne’s husband at the date of her death. Anne’s new relationship was completely disregarded; nothing passed to Chris. Depending on how Anne and Chris’s flat is held, this could even result in Bob inheriting a share in it and, potentially, forcing the sale of the flat if Chris could not afford to buy him out.
This example demonstrates how the intestacy rules can be unfair, especially based as they are (and to some extent as they have to be) on the ‘traditional’ family model. However, they will become even less appropriate as modern, less traditional family models become more and more widespread.
Making a Will allows us to correct this unfairness. It allows us to retain a degree of control on what will happen to our assets once we die. By making a Will, we can choose to benefit anyone and (provided they are not our dependants) we can prevent anyone from inheriting by simply not mentioning them as beneficiaries.
You can see how the rules of intestacy work by reading our factsheet on what happens if I die without a Will.