Q: My partner has recently passed away and I don’t know if he ever made a Will. He has two grown up children from a former relationship whom he hadn’t seen for over a decade. Although we weren’t married we lived together for twenty years, so I was his “common-law spouse”. What should I do?
A: Firstly you need to check whether your partner ever made a Will. You should check through all his paperwork to see if there is any reference to a Will and if you find nothing you could try contacting local solicitors and asking them to check their records for one.
The term “common law spouse” has no place in English and Welsh Law, so if you are unable to locate a Will your partner’s estate will unfortunately pass to his next of kin, i.e. his children.
This will, however, only apply to any assets your partner held in his sole name. Any bank or savings accounts that you held jointly with your partner will automatically transfer into your sole name, as will any jointly owned possessions. The only possible exception to this rule may be any properties that you owned together. Property can be owned jointly as either joint tenants or as tenants in common. If you owned property as joint tenants the property will pass to you, but if owned as tenants in common it will pass to your partner’s children.
Despite the above you may have a possible claim against the estate which, under the Inheritance Provision for Family and Dependants Act 1975, may entitle you to a greater share of your partner’s estate. If you are considering making such a claim it is important that you consult a solicitor immediately as there are very strict time limits for making a claim.