In October 2008 the Law commission started work on a project to review the existing law of inheritance and certain aspects of trustees’ powers. The project considered two areas of the law intestacy and family provision.Intestacy is when a person dies intestate, that is without leaving a valid will. The Intestacy Rules governing the distribution of any money and other assets (the deceased’s “estate”) date back to 1925 and had not been comprehensively reviewed for more than 20 years.

Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 certain family members and dependants may apply to court for reasonable financial provision from the estate, whether or not the deceased left a will and is often referred to as a claim for family provision.

These are both important areas of the law, affecting a large number of families often at times of financial and emotional vulnerability especially as studies suggest that between a half and two thirds of the adult population do not have a will therefore making no provision for their heirs. This is a situation that is often found by Finders heir hunters, whose work will feature on series 8 of the daytime BBC TV show Heir Hunters which starts in 2014. Finders have a network of agents throughout the world and the show follows them as they trace missing beneficiaries to intestacies and reunite them with their rightful inheritance.

The Law Commission believes that the needs and expectations of modern families should be reflected by the intestacy rules and that the law does not place unnecessary obstacles in the way of a valid family provision claim, where the rules (or the deceased’s will) fail to make adequate provision for close family members or dependants.

In October 2009 the Law Commission published a consultation paper and in May 2011 a supplementary consultation paper that set out broader options for reform of statutory provisions which enable trustees to distribute income or capital from the trust fund to or for the benefit of beneficiaries who are not yet entitled to take such funds outright.

Subsequently The Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Bill was introduced into the House of Lords on 30 July 2013 and includes reforms that will:

  • ensure that where a couple are married or in a civil partnership, assets pass on intestacy to the surviving spouse in all cases where there are no children or other heirs;
  • simplify the sharing of assets on intestacy where the deceased was survived by a spouse and children or other beneficiaries;
  • protect children who suffer the death of a parent from the risk of losing an inheritance from that parent in the event that they are adopted after the death;
  • remove arbitrary obstacles to family provision claims by dependants of the deceased and anyone treated by the deceased as a child of his or her family outside the context of a marriage or civil partnership;
  • in certain circumstances, where the deceased died “domiciled” outside of England and Wales but left property and family members or dependants here; permit a claim for family provision;
  • subject to any express provisions in the trust instrument, reform trustees’ statutory powers to use income and capital for the benefit of trust beneficiaries.
  • amend the legal rules which currently disadvantage unmarried fathers when a child dies intestate;

These are important changes and should be considered carefully by Trustees, Administrators, and by probate genealogists charged with tracing missing beneficiaries and rightfully entitled heirs. For more information follow the link: Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Bill

Finders have been awarded the ISO 9001:2008 Total Quality Management certification and are the first probate genealogy firm to achieve the international version of this Standard as devised by the IAB (International Accreditation Board). Finders also provide missing beneficiary insurance, which protects trustees and administrators against the event of an unknown beneficiary emerging after an estate, has been distributed. As agents for Aviva they are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

For further information and advice contact:

6-8 Vestry Street,
N1 7RE
020 7490 4935

Daniel Curran
Written by Daniel Curran
Daniel is a leading figure in the UK Heir Hunting industry. He is from Isleworth in West London and has lived in London for most of his life. He has been in the probate genealogy profession since 1990. He formed Finders in 1997 after 7 years at another firm.