If a person passes away without leaving a Will or a Will that is legally enforceable, the estate will need to be distributed in line with the rules of intestacy.
The Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act 2014 will govern who gets what, but if parties are disputing their right to inherit it can become complicated, especially for cohabiting couples and blended families.
What rights do you have?
Cohabiting partners (sometimes known as common law spouses) and stepchildren are not entitled to inherit anything under the rules of intestacy. Similarly, the following people have no right to inherit when someone dies without leaving a Will:
- Same-sex partners who are not in a civil partnership
- In-laws (relations by marriage), including stepchildren
Intestacy and applying for financial help
However, in some cases it may be possible for any of the above listed parties to apply to the court and make a claim for reasonable financial help.
For example, if you were living with the deceased for two years immediately prior to his or her death, you may have grounds for a claim.
Similarly, if you were a stepchild or another party who was, to all intents and purposes, treated as a child or a dependent, you may be able to apply to the court to make a claim for financial provision.
Courts can order any of the following:
- Periodic payments from the estate
- A lump sum payment from the estate
- The transfer of property from the estate
If you are in this situation it is important that you seek the prompt advice of a disputed wills and probate solicitor; strict time limits are in place and it is essential that you begin the process – perhaps by placing a caveat on the administration of the estate – before it begins to be distributed among the beneficiaries.
Problems with the administrator
When there is no Will, the person appointed as the personal representative of the estate is known as the administrator. If you have concerns about the way in which an administrator is conducting the probate process, you should seek the advice of a probate dispute lawyer.
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