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Inheritance Act Claim for unmarried partners

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When a person does not leave a Will, only their married or civil partners inherit under the Intestacy Rules depending on the value of the estate. For unmarried couples and cohabitees, if your partner dies Intestate (that is without leaving a will), you could find yourself in a position where you are not entitled to inherit from your partner’s Estate.

What can I do if my partner did not leave a Will?

In a case conducted by our Inheritance and Will Disputes Department, our client lived with her partner (“the Deceased”) for over 21 years, when he unexpectedly passed away without making a Will.

At the time of his death, the Deceased remained legally married to his ‘wife’ despite having been separated from her for over 25 years and them living separate lives. The Deceased's actions, in not leaving a Will, meant that no provision was made for our client from the Deceased’s estate.

Although our client was married to the Deceased under Islamic Law, this is not recognised by the UK courts and she was classed as the Deceased’s unmarried partner/cohabitee.

When a person does not leave a Will, the Intestacy Rules decide how the Deceased’s estate is to be distributed. In this case, the Intestacy Rules provided that the Deceased’s estate passed to his ‘wife’ due to the fact that, although they were separated, they were not divorced, and further as a consequence of the Deceased not having made a Will.

“We have seen a rise in cohabitee/dependant claims from unmarried partners under the Inheritance Act due to a decline in marriage and blended families,” said Jade Wood, Paralegal in the Inheritance and Will Disputes Department at Pearson Solicitors.

“In this case, if the Deceased had made a Will making provision for his long-term partner, then the need for a claim under the Inheritance Act could have been avoided as his true wishes and intent would have been reflected in his Will. Although the Deceased had made a home with our client and her three children, where they lived happily for over 21 years, the Intestacy Rules meant that on his death, his long-term partner would be left without anything from his estate. It would have been a far stretch to believe that the Deceased would not have wanted our client to benefit from his estate,” added Jade.

Claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975

We acted for our client in bringing a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Inheritance Act”) as a cohabitee and dependant of the Deceased.

Her claim was made on two grounds, the first ground being that in accordance with Section 1 (1A) of the Inheritance Act, she was “a person who was living in the same household as the deceased, and as the husband or wife of the deceased, during the whole of the period of two years ending immediately before the date when the deceased died.

The second ground was made on the basis that our client satisfied Section 1(1)(e) of the Inheritance Act in that she was “a person who immediately before the death of the deceased was being maintained, either wholly or partly, by the deceased.

“This was an extremely complex case, and although our client had an income, our client had relied on her partner financially in his life for her maintenance and housing needs,” said Jade.

Our client’s position was that she and her partner lived ‘as husband and wife’ and, whilst they had discussed concerns about what would happen if one of them had died, unfortunately, the Intestacy Rules meant the exact opposite. Instead, the beneficiaries of the estate were the Deceased’s wife and children, with whom he had limited contact during the course of our clients relationship with him.

“This estate was substantial. It was clear from the outset that even with providing provision for our client’s maintenance. there would have been sufficient funds in the estate to provide for his wife and children,” added Jade.

Inheritance Act Claim for maintenance

We are pleased that we were able to reach a financial settlement on our client’s behalf in order to provide for her maintenance needs.

In this case, although court proceedings were issued we reached a settlement before a trial. This not only meant that our client received a financial settlement as a result of her claim, but it also enabled her to bring closure on a difficult time in her life allowing her to now grieve the loss of her partner.

“We would urge anyone who finds that sufficient provision has not been made either as a consequence of the Intestacy Rules or under the terms of a Will to seek professional legal advice from a specialist Solicitor as soon as possible.”

“You may be eligible to bring a claim under the Inheritance Act. It is important to seek advice as soon as possible as any claims made under the Inheritance Act must be brought within six months from the date of the Grant of Probate/Letters of Administration. Failure to bring a claim within this time would mean that the permission of the Court is required to bring a claim out of time, which is an additional hurdle,” advised Jade.

How can we help

For legal advice on bringing a claim under the Inheritance Act when the Intestacy Rules fall to make provision contact our specialist Inheritance and Will Disputes Solicitors on 0161 785 3500 or email

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

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    Written by Jade Wood