Q: My mum and stepfather decided to get divorced after 12 years of marriage. I think being home together during the past year highlighted that they had little in common. Mum moved in with me and my stepfather stayed in the marital home, which was his before they married. He promised mum a financial settlement and was going to remortgage the house to pay her, but then he died from COVID before the divorce was finalised. Both had wills leaving their respective estates to their respective children. What will happen to his money now? Can mum make a claim on his estate?
A: It really depends upon whether they had applied to the Court for a Financial Order. If they had then the money your stepfather was going to pay your mother would be classed as a formal debt and would therefore be payable from his estate. His executors would identify it as an unfulfilled financial obligation.
If no financial order was made by the Court, then it is a more complex matter as there will be no ‘debt’ owing to your mother. As your mother and stepfather were still legally married your mother will be treated as a widow and, as such, she can bring a claim against your stepfather’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975.
When considering the claim, the Court will take into account your mother’s financial resources and needs, any financial obligations and responsibilities your stepfather had to her and the size of your stepfather’s estate. Other matters which the Court will consider are the length of the marriage, what financial and domestic contributions your mother made to the marriage and what she might have expected to receive if the marriage had been terminated by divorce rather than death. Your mother should seek more detailed advice from a divorce solicitor as soon as possible.
This question has been answered by Ulia Choudhry, a Solicitor with GHP Legal.