A rather tragic intestacy story recently passed our desks concerning a woman whose partner had died while she was six months pregnant. Although they were living together, they were not married and had no civil partnership in place. He had not left a will. We were asked whether the mother and her unborn child had any entitlement to her deceased partner’s assets. As he did not have a will, it would fall to the ‘intestacy rules’ to determine who inherits his estate.
The rules of intestacy can be quite convoluted in practice. As the man was not married, if he is treated as having no children, the money will go to his parents. If his parents had died before him, it would go to his siblings, or if no siblings, his half-siblings. It would then follow the family line, going to wider family depending on who had survived him.
If he had been married with a child, the first £270,000 of his assets would go to his spouse, along with all personal possessions and half of the value over £270,000. The other half of his assets exceeding £270,000 would have gone to his children. If he had less than £270,000 in assets, or had no children, the whole amount would go to his spouse.
As it stands, the child can in theory inherit, as the legal definition of children for this purpose includes those still within the mother. This means that the child does have an entitlement to their father’s assets.
However, in practice, without a will giving her authority, it may be fairly difficult for the child’s mother to obtain a grant in order to use these assets against her partner’s debts and take care of herself and the baby. This could leave his partner in the final trimester of her pregnancy, lacking not only the physical and emotional support, but also the financial support she would have had a few months ago.
Failing this, she may be able to apply under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975, as she was in a relationship with the deceased for at least two years before her death. However, this may be a drawn out process, which could require her to attend court to prove her claim.
This situation is not unique in its tragedy. A will is often the last thing on our minds, but it could have eased the burden on the mother and child in this instance, by giving the money a predetermined path, and giving them authority to deal with it without additional red tape.
Wills can help you look after the people you love after you’ve died, in the way that is best for you and for them.
If you think that you, or someone you love, would benefit from making a will, please feel free to contact Chris Burrows at our Private Client department, at Chris.firstname.lastname@example.org or 0161 833 5694.
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