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Lord McNally (Liberal Democrat)

I have today written to the chair of the Law Commission to set out the Government's formal response to the commission's report, Intestacy and Family Provision Claims on Death (Law Com No 331). The report, which was published on 14 December 2011, formed part of the commission's tenth programme and considers two areas of the law of inheritance. It makes recommendations across four main areas; entitlement of the surviving spouse, problems with family provision claims, legal traps for beneficiaries and administrators, and rights of cohabitants.

The Government have accepted the commission's recommendations in relation to the first three of these areas, subject to minor amendments. These recommendations will modernise and simplify this area of law to create a fairer, more comprehensible set of rules and make the process of administering an estate faster and easier for those involved at what will always be a difficult time.

As a first step towards implementation, I am publishing today for consultation the draft inheritance and trustees' powers Bill, which was produced by the commission alongside its report and gives effect to the recommendations that the Government have accepted. Consultation will offer those with an interest in this area a final opportunity to comment on the Bill's provisions and identify any issues that have arisen since the original report was published.

The consultation will remain open until 3 May and is available on the Ministry of Justice website at www.justice.gov.uk/consultations. I am also placing a copy in the House Libraries. The House will be notified of the outcome of the consultation in due course.

However, after careful consideration, it has been decided that the Law Commission's recommendations regarding the final area, rights for cohabitants upon intestacy, will not be implemented during this Parliament. This is consistent with the Government's response to the Law Commission's previous report, Cohabitation: Financial Consequences of Relationship Breakdown (Law Com No 307) and reflects the continuing priority for family justice of completing our significant ongoing reform programme.

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