Second and third wives or husbands will be making merry after hearing of new laws for people with over £250,000 in assets who die intestate or without making a will.

From yesterday (1st October 2014) a share that used to eventually go to children of the deceased can now be kept by the surviving spouse unless stated otherwise in a will.

Where there are no children under the old rules parents or siblings could benefit over a certain amount. Not any more, the surviving spouse will receive the lot.

If you are not married or in a civil partnership everything still automatically goes to a blood relative so the new laws don’t help there either. The only way to control what happens in these circumstances is to get married or make a will.

It is the biggest single overhaul of laws governing what happens to someone’s money when they die.

Christine Thornley of Gorvins Wills, Trusts and Probate Team, said: “We are frequently dealing with complex family structures and find that when a parent passes away children can often lose out or become involved in unpleasant disputes with step-parents, no matter how good the relationship was before their own parent passed away.

“These new rules will further disadvantage children of the deceased in favour of a surviving spouse.  It is now even more critical that a valid will is in place and that it is reviewed regularly to ensure your estate passes to those you want it to.

“It is never sensible to rely on people ‘sorting things out themselves’. Even where the law allows this, the person you have tasked with this role, may not be happy to do so when the time comes.”

Gorvins has seen numerous disputes arise out of intestacy situations, or from out of date wills which do not deal fairly with all interested parties at the time of death.

Christine again: “The cost of a dispute can be significant, not to mention the stress and emotional distress all parties go through.  The cost of making a will or updating it is insignificant compared to the cost of fighting a dispute.”

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