My name is Belinda and last year I lost my partner Allan after a short illness. We had been in a relationship for the past 17 years. Allan had been married once before and had divorced his first wife in the 1990s. He had two adult children from his marriage, Adrian and Carolyn. Adrian has severe disabilities and requires round the clock care. He is mentally handicapped and unable to make decisions for himself.
I got on with Carolyn when she was a child, but as an adult our relationship turned sour. In particular Carolyn objected when Allan proposed to me in 2016. We set a date for our wedding in 2018. Despite Carolyn’s protestations, I was so excited that we were going to be married at last!
Sadly Allan died in March 2017. He left no Will and this is where my nightmare began.
I went to our solicitor to sort out Allan’s estate. Allan owned our home worth £290,000 and had savings of £30,000. I told the solicitor we were ‘common law’ husband and wife. Unfortunately the solicitor explained that common law husband and wife has no legal status. The fact that he died unmarried without a will meant his entire estate – including our home – would pass to the children. To say the colour drained from my face was an understatement.
The solicitor and I considered whether the children would relinquish part or all of their inheritance. Unfortunately, owing to his health Adrian was in no position to agree to this proposal. I would have to go to Court and ask that they consent on behalf of Adrian. The solicitor said I would be unlikely to get that consent as I would struggle to demonstrate how this would be in Adrian’s best interest.
I threw myself at the mercy of Carolyn, hoping she would not want to make me homeless. Unfortunately Carolyn, could not see my point and simply wanted her half of Allan’s estate.
The solicitor said that my only option was to make a claim as a ‘dependent’. It is possible for a partner to make a claim as a dependent provided they have lived in the same household, as husband and wife (in all but name) for more than two years. Unfortunately some cases can last for many years and there are no guarantees that I will be granted a right to remain in my home.
I asked my solicitor what Allan should have done and she said that he should have made a Will. Allan, could have given me a right to live in the property for the rest of my life with a provision that the home passes to his children on my death.
Ben Holden Director and Head of the Wills & Probate Department at Donnelly & Elliott comments “unfortunately, I see cases such as Belinda’s all too often. Belinda lost out because Allan did not make a Will. Even if they had been married, she would have only received part (not all) of Allan’s estate. The laws that apply to people who die without a Will are complex. Despite this fact, over two thirds of the UK adult population do not have a Will. The message is loud and clear – don’t be like Allan and leave your estate to chance! ”
Make 2018 the year you make your Will and leave your loved ones with peace of mind.
Speak to a member of our Wills & Probate team on 02392 505 500 to arrange your no obligation consultation.
About the Author
Ben Holden is a Solicitor, Director and Head of the Wills and Probate Department at Donnelly & Elliott Solicitors in Gosport. He has over a decade of experience in dealing with elderly client matters. Ben and his team pride themselves on taking the time to understand their clients’ needs whilst offering cost effective legal solutions. Ben is a member of the Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners and a full accredited member of Solicitors for the Elderly.
As part of their commitment to excellence in this field, Donnelly and Elliott Solicitors are proud to be accredited members of the Law Society’s Wills & Inheritance Quality Scheme.
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