30 January 2009
From Sunday, the financial entitlement for someone whose spouse or civil partner has died without leaving a will has been doubled, with the potential to reach £450,000.
This comes in parallel with the biggest overhaul of the coroners system in 100 years, as the Coroners and Justice Bill takes forward the government's commitment to providing more and better support to the bereaved.
Justice Minister Bridget Prentice said:
'The death of a loved one is an extremely distressing time, and sees people at their most vulnerable. I want to see real improvement in the support and services offered to the recently bereaved, and this will result in the biggest shake-up of the coronial system in 100 years.
'The Coroners and Justice Bill, currently going through Parliament, sets out my plans for the first-ever 'Charter for the Bereaved'. Families will get a right to complain or appeal to a new Chief Coroner on a range of issues, including if they think there should be a post-mortem examination or if they are unhappy with the verdict of the inquest.
'The charter will also make sure that families are kept informed, answer any questions they may have about coronial procedures and take account of individual wishes, where possible, including personal preferences and religious requirements.
'Alongside this, from today, a person whose spouse or civil partner has died without leaving a will is now entitled to significantly increased financial support - another key part of our plans to make this difficult time a little easier.
'Of course we should all make a will, but in the situation where there isn't one we have greatly increased financial support.'
At present, a spouse or civil partner with children automatically gets £125,000 from the estate of someone who has died without leaving a will. Where someone leaves not only a spouse or civil partner but also parents or siblings, but no children, they get £200,000. From 1 February 2009 the amounts will increase to £250,000 and £450,000 respectively.
The broader reforms to the coroner system will see the appointment of a judge to the new post of Chief Coroner for England and Wales; the introduction of new national standards for coroners' investigations; new powers to transfer investigations from one area to another in order to prevent backlogs for both military and non-military inquests; and measures that ensure that coroners' verdicts are accurate and based on all available evidence, even if the evidence cannot be made public.
Notes to editors
1. The statutory legacy is the amount payable to a surviving spouse or civil partner from the estate of his or her spouse or civil partner dying intestate, that is without leaving a valid will. As from 1 February, where the deceased leaves a surviving spouse or civil partner and children the statutory legacy will increase from £125,000 to £250,000 and from £200,000 to £450,000 where the deceased leaves a surviving spouse or civil partner and parents or siblings but no children. The statutory legacy is payable to the surviving spouse or civil partner only. The intestacy rules are a default regime and people can opt out of them by making a will.
2. The changes to the statutory legacy are made by way of statutory instrument pursuant to section 1 of the Family Provision Act 1966. The Family Provision (Intestate Succession) Order 2009 sets out the new increases to the levels of the statutory legacy.
3. The Coroners and Justice Bill provides for a new Charter for Bereaved People. The charter will be statutory guidance and bring together many of the services bereaved people will receive from coroners in a reformed system.
4. Further details about the changes to the statutory legacy are available in the Ministry of Justice's post-consultation report: Administration of Estates – Review of the Statutory Legacy (CP(R) 11/05), which was published in August 2008.