Guest blog: What happens if a loved one hasn’t left a will

Guest blog: What happens if a loved one hasn't left a will
Amy Wilford
  1. My wife has recently died of Covid-19 without leaving a will. What am I entitled to?

A person who dies without leaving a will is known to have died “intestate”. Their estate is split in accordance with the intestacy rules. As the husband of the deceased, you will be entitled to keep all the assets (including property), up to £270,000, and all the personal possessions, whatever their value. The distribution of the remainder of the estate will vary depending on whether your wife had living children, grandchildren or other direct descendants, e.g. great-grandchildren. If she did, the remainder of the estate will be shared between you and them. You as husband get an absolute interest in half of the remainder, the other half is then divided equally between the surviving children. If a child has already died, their children will inherit in their place.

  1. My partner assured me I would be provided for if he died, but he has left his entire estate to his children. Where do I stand?

You potentially have a number of options depending on the circumstances.

  1. If you were co-habiting with your partner and living as a married couple/civil partners, for two years prior to his death, you may be able to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The Act allows you to make an application on the basis that the will did not make reasonable financial provision for you. You can ask for such financial provision as it would be reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for you to receive for your maintenance. The court has a wide range of powers to make orders, the most common being for the payment of a lump sum out of the estate.
  2. Another possible option might be a constructive trust claim against your partner’s property if for example it is held in your partner’s sole name, but the common intention between you was that it was a jointly held asset. If you made direct contributions to the purchase price or mortgage for example, then that would usually justify the necessary elements of a constructive trust, as would you having spent a significant amount of time and money in renovating the property.
  • A third possibility may be a proprietary estoppel claim. There are three elements which must all be present:
  1. A promise, assurance or other encouragement by your partner, which gave rise to an expectation that you have an exclusive interest. For example your partner promised that you would be left his property on his death;
  2. You relied upon that expectation; and
  3. You suffered a detriment in consequence of reliance on that expectation, e.g. you paid for renovations at the property assuming it would one day be yours. Again, the court has a wide discretion as to how to compensate a claimant such as yourself in claims of this kind.

If you have any questions regarding the above, please contact Amy Wilford on 01892 701306 or email or visit our website

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