The unmarried couple

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Deborah* was in her mid-forties and had two young children with her long-term partner, Steve*, who passed away. He had another child, from who he had become estranged, from a previous relationship.

Steve had never made a will and the family home was registered in his name at the time of his death. His three children were all aged under 18 and therefore too young to manage their father’s estate.

The problem

Because Steve hadn’t made a will, the law says his estate should be shared equally between his three children. That meant the house where Deborah and her two young children lived would have to be sold in order to split the assets between his three children – making them homeless.

The law

Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act, Deborah was entitled to claim reasonable financial provision because she was his long-term partner of more than two years.

The Act made sure that Deborah’s income and financial needs were taken into account – at that time and into the foreseeable future – and that the needs of the children she shared with Steve were taken into account too.

What happened next?

Our view was that Deborah had a strong claim to most, if not all, of Steve’s estate and that, while her children also had a claim, it would not be in their interests to tie the estate up in trust until they were 18 rather than allowing them to benefit from it now. As a single mother with two children and a part time job she needed to supplement her income.

We sent a letter of claim to the solicitors representing Steve’s estranged child explaining that, as well as requiring reasonable financial provision, Deborah needed accommodation for herself and her children. We argued that the house she lived in with Steve should pass to her absolutely and that as a single mother with limited income, she also required a significant cash sum to pay for everyday living expenses and for holidays.

Through formal mediation sessions, it was agreed that all the children would receive a lump sum to be held on trust. Deborah received 50% of the house and a ‘life interest’ over the other 50% which means she could continue to  live there with her children – so they were not homeless. She also received whatever cash and assets were left in the estate.

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