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Private Client Section

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I understand that major changes have been made to the intestacy rules. What are the main changes in relation to spouses?

From 1 October 2014, spouses and civil partners, as well as other family members, have new inheritance rights under the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014 (ITPA 2014). The act aims to simplify the distribution of an intestate’s estate.

Where the death of the intestate occurred on or after 1 October 2014, the main changes in relation to spouses and civil partners are as follows.

  • If the deceased leaves no children, the residuary estate passes to the surviving spouse or civil partner absolutely.
  • If the deceased leaves children, then the surviving spouse or civil partner receives:
    -  the personal chattels absolutely;
    -  the statutory legacy (currently £250,000) together with interest on that amount from the date of death absolutely; and
    -  one half of the residue absolutely.

The deceased’s children will receive the other half of the residue absolutely and, if more than one child survives, they will share that amount equally.

For more information on the ITPA 2014, see the Law Society’s article at

I am the executor of an estate where the deceased left a legacy to an elderly neighbour who used to look after his home when he was on holiday. This lady no longer lives at the address given in the will, but we have managed to locate her. She does not have a current passport and she has never held a driving licence. How do I carry out customer due diligence on her?

You do not need to carry out ‘customer due diligence’ on this beneficiary, as she is not your client. You must simply establish that you pay the legacy to the correct person.

You might consider asking her for some proof of identity, such as a council tax bill, and perhaps for some evidence that she used to live at the address mentioned in the will.

As an additional safeguard, it would be usual to send a beneficiary a cheque payable to the name given in the will, which she could pay into a bank account in that name, and to ask her to sign a receipt for the money.

For more information and sources which may be useful in verifying the identity of this lady, see chapter 4 of the Law Society’s anti-money laundering practice note, available at

I am a probate practitioner and I have today received a letter from another firm of solicitors representing a charity. The charity is a beneficiary under a will we drafted which is subject to a serious dispute. The firm is requesting general information about preparation of the will and its execution, together with a copy of the will file. Must I comply with both these requests?

Following Larke v Nugus [2000] WTLR 1033, it is recommended that you provide a full statement of evidence as to the preparation of the will and the circumstances in which it was executed where there is a disputed will after the testator’s death. Your duty of confidentiality continues after the client’s death and passes to the personal representatives. Therefore, you should only provide the solicitors acting for the charity with a copy of the will file if you have consent to do so from the personal representatives.

For more information, see the Law Society’s disputed wills practice note.

I am in the process of drafting a will for a long-established client. He has told me that, after careful consideration, he has decided to leave his body to a local medical school for anatomical purposes. Are there any steps that I need to take now to ensure that my client’s wish is fulfilled as far as possible?

Yes. This area in governed by the provisions of the Human Tissue Act 2004 (HTA 2004). ‘Anatomical purposes’ is defined in section 54(1) of the HTA 2014 as “being for the purposes of teaching, studying or researching into the gross structure of the human body”. Provided you are satisfied that your client has capacity, and once he has chosen which medical school to donate his body to, it will be necessary for your client to sign a consent form. A consent form can be obtained from the relevant medical school and, once signed and witnessed, should be kept with the will. Ensure that the executors are made aware of the wishes of the deceased, so that the body can be donated to the medical school without delay. The following clause can be included in the will: “I wish my body to be used by [name of institution] and I have made arrangements for this with the appropriate authorities. I wish my body, or what remains of it, to be [buried] / [cremated]. Any expense incurred in giving effect to these wishes shall be treated as an executorship expense.”

If your client wishes to register for both organ donation and body donation, the Human Tissue Authority suggests that this is also made clear in their will. Medical schools will usually arrange for donated bodies to be cremated unless the executors request the return of the body for a private burial or cremation.

The Human Tissue Authority has produced a factsheet, How to donate your body, available at

This column is compiled by the Law Society’s Practice Advice Service, telephone 020 7320 5675. Comments relating to the questions should be sent to Mrs Anjali Mouelhi, Solicitor Technical Lead, The Law Society, 113 Chancery Lane, London, WC2A 1PL.

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.

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