Contentious probate Q&A Question 2
“My partner of 20 years died 2 months ago without a Will. We were never married but I always believed his estate would come to me. I have been told that his entire estate will now pass to his children. This leaves me homeless and without any money to meet my expenses or find somewhere to live. Is there any way I can receive anything from his estate?”
You may have a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Act”). One of the categories of applicant whom can bring a claim under the Act, is a person who was living in the same household of the deceased and, prior to their death, was living with them as if they were a married couple or in a civil partnership. From the brief facts you have provided it sounds as though you would fall into this category of applicant and meet the first requirement to establish a claim under the Act.
There are two subsequent stages to bringing a claim.
The first stage is to evidence that your partner’s estate does not make reasonable financial provision for your maintenance. "Maintenance" is not defined by the Act, but the courts have defined the word, and the applicable standard under it, by reference to what it would be reasonable for you to live on, at neither a luxurious, nor poverty stricken level.
If you can evidence that your partner’s estate fails to make reasonable financial provision for your maintenance, then the second stage is what provision you should be awarded under the Act.
There are guidelines under the Act to which the Court will have regard when considering the above two stages. There are general guidelines and then guidelines specific to the category of applicant in question. General guidelines would include your financial resources and needs you have now or are likely to have in the future and also the financial resources and needs of your partner’s children. The specific guidelines that would apply to your claim would include your age, how long you had been in a relationship and lived with your partner, the contribution made by you to the welfare of your relationship and your partner’s family in addition to the contribution made by looking after the home or caring for the family. As part of any initial instruction we would ask you provide these details in depth in order that we can properly assess the merits of your claim.
Whilst there would be attempts to try and settle your claim beforehand, any proceedings must be issued by you within six months from the date the Grant of Representation is issued in your partner’s estate. The Courts do have a discretion to extend this time limit in exceptional circumstances, but it is imperative to take the initials steps in your any claim at the earliest opportunity to ensure the six month limitation date is not surpassed.
Separate to a claim under the Act, it would be equally important to consider the arrangements regarding the ownership of the property. For example, how was the property purchased? Was the property purchased whilst you and your partner were together? Was there a specific reason as to why both of you were not named on the legal title? Did you make any capital contributions to the repayment of any mortgage or pay for significant work carried out to the property? By gathering this information we can assess whether you would also be able to assert a claim that you are deserving of an award of a beneficial interest in the property.
The 1975 Act is complex and there are a variety of factors that will need to be evidenced in any claim to show that it meets the general and specific guidelines. If you would like for us to go through your case in more depth and advise you on the merits of the same, then please contact our Contentious Probate Trusts and Estate Team on 01622 698 000 or get in touch with us at the bottom of the page here.