You can avoid these problems by making a will.
More money should be allowed to parents with dependent children if their spouse dies without leaving a will, according to senior legal experts.
In England and Wales husbands, wives and civil partners are eligible for the first £125,000 of the estate and are due the interest on half of the remainder.
The rate has not been changed since 1993.
Some surviving parents say the income is not sufficient and they may be forced to sell the family home to pay the inheritance tax bill.
Have you been through financial difficulty following the death of a spouse who did not make a will?
Have you had to go to court to get more money from the estate to provide for your family?
Do you think the current financial limit is fair or do you think it should be changed?
If you do not want to make a will, are you clear what the impact will be on your family in the event of your death?
If you are in the legal profession, what is your experience of these matters?
We asked for your comments, a selection of which are below. The debate is now closed.
MOST RECENT COMMENTS:
My uncle died leaving no will. He named me as next of kin at Hospital. I am down as "step nephew" on the death certificate. All the nieces and I are waiting for the "treasury solicitor" to agree that we are "half blood relatives" to our uncle but step related to each other, i.e. his parents were our grandparents. I do not know of anyone who describes themselves as a "half blood" relative to anybody, but the law does... Everyone should make a will.
C Cooper, Kendal
Some years after my mother's death my father remarried. He later died intestate, his second wife inheriting all of his estate under intestacy laws, including the house that my parents had paid for and the ownership of my mother's grave. So my siblings and I were effectively disinherited. After a few years the second wife then sold the house. When she dies her estate will be inherited by members of her own family (she has no children). Why, under English law, are "children of the blood" of a first marriage allowed to be so totally ignored? It could not happen in France where second spouses have to share an estate with the children of a first marriage.
I'm young (28) so not really worried about dying just yet. I have recently got married and have a child on the way and no will. This is something we will resolve soon. However, please note that I intend to have a great relationship with our kids and will do everything in my power to ensure they inherit my full estate without having to pay inheritance tax. If that meant signing the house over to my kids then so be it. I cannot believe that because I'm doing well for myself the government can take 40% of my salary and just because I have nice things that after I died they could take them too.
P Potter, Gainsborough
My father died nearly three years ago and his estate is only just being finalised. He had a will leaving half to my stepmother, a quarter to myself and the remaining quarter to my brother. However, my stepmother didn't feel this was enough and contested the will. She won and the outcome is that in the future at some point her adult children from a previous marriage will benefit from my fathers lifetime of hard work, something he thought could be avoided by writing a will. My stepmother is also receiving £60k per annum pension. So my father had taken all the right steps in ensuring she would be provided for in the event of his death. So what I would like to know is, "why bother with a will?"
Last year my husband died "intestate" but he had made a will.... in 1992, both divorcees, we set up home together and made our wills, each in the other's favour and leaving our joint estate equally between our five children only upon the death of the surviving partner. In 2002 we "legalised" our relationship and got married. We did not know and were never informed that our wills were now invalid, even though we were not leaving our estate to anybody other than the named people. My husband, a cancer victim, would have been so incensed - his one abiding concern was I should be provided for and we knew we'd made our wills... Thankfully my relationship with my stepdaughters is close and they wanted to do for me what their father had wished for me, so they "rescinded their rights" and eventually I became the administrator of the estate. Please advise your listeners not to fall into the same trap and to be certain to make new wills if they should change a long-term relationship from cohabiting to marriage.
I am one of three children, our father passed away on 23 January 2008 very unexpectedly. My mother had died intestate [11 years ago]. After [her] funeral I received a phone call from my father's solicitors saying that everything would pass to my father. I had no knowledge of the intestacy law at the time until a friend of the family told me about it, I immediately engaged my own solicitor who has been trying to expose what my father did. My father never had a valuation done at the time of my mother's death but was able to swear an oath saying that the property was not worth anywhere near the figure given for the intestate law to be applied. The whole property was then assented to him and him alone. We were kept in the dark on purpose. He has [now] left his estate in 50% share to his ex-girlfriend and his three grandchildren. We are left with nothing and my father's solicitor is the sole executer of his estate. I find it an absolute disgrace that three children have been left out of an inheritance of a family home which had belonged to the family since the 1800s and that my father, who hated us, has been allowed to do this.
Ten years ago my husband died without making a will and leaving me in the unenviable position of having to sue my three children aged 16, 14, and 9 to retain the family home as my sole property. It was a nightmare that haunts me still, and dragged on for years. The courts appointed a solicitor as guardian ad litum for my children, who was adversarial and combative in his approach. He refused to meet me or talk to me and treated me like the enemy. He ignored my children's instructions and treated them with condescension and disrespect. It is only through the wonderful strength of character of my children and our support and love for each other that our relationships were not permanently destroyed. I found solicitors had no knowledge of the process and I changed mine several times, with no noticeable improvement. It was not until I began to recover from the bereavement and was able to take control myself that a resolution was reached. I discovered that the guardian ad litum does not have to be a solicitor, but can be a friend, and so we went to court and the court approved a close family friend, removing their appointee. My daughter and older son were now regarded by the court as adults to be listened to and after five years we were able to gain the courts authorisation for the house to be assigned to me. Of course, the despicable thing is that the real winners were the courts and solicitors, all charging massive fees on the back of family misery. The children were refused legal aid and the fees came out of the estate, so they lost out all round. To this day I will never know the real effect on my children. I do know that it had a terrible impact on their grieving and once the matter was settled, none of us could bear to live in the house, which had been a much loved family home, filled with happy memories. We sold it and moved on within months.
Note that in Scotland, there are potentially more difficulties in the event of intestacy where there are no children. In such a case, after the prior rights, the deceased's siblings fall to receive a share of the balance of the estate to the exclusion of the widow(er) whether there has been any contact within the family or not. The rights of the siblings are irrefutable by the widow(er).
David, Oban, Argyll
As I understand, a will is only valid if the executor is honest! My brothers and I were left money by my stepmother in her will, the executors were her grandson and granddaughter. No money was ever received and when advice was sought from legal profession they said it was a family matter and not worth pursuing! So why make a will?
My father died eight and half years ago without leaving a will. On receiving legal advice my stepmother inherited all of the matrimonial assets; house, shares, cash etc which were jointly owned and, I believe, totalled around £800k. If I have understood correctly, I believe that this may not have been the correct treatment of the assets. By right, my stepmother is entitled to her half share of the assets of £400k plus £125k of my father's half share leaving my brother and me the balance of £275k (less IHT) to share equally.
The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.