My partner left me out of their will, what can I do?
This article focuses on claims by partners and cohabitees. However, if you would like to know what your inheritance rights are as a spouse then click here.
A partner’s rights under the Inheritance Act
We are frequently contacted by bereaved individuals asking, ‘My partner left me out of their will, what can I do?’ Although unmarried people do not enjoy the same inheritance rights as married couples, some do have protection under the Inheritance Act if their partner dies without making provision for them.
If you qualify for this protection as a ‘cobabitee’ then you may be entitled to some or all of the estate of your deceased partner, regardless of what was written in their Will or what the intestacy rules might say.
Who qualifies as a cohabitee?
It may surprise you to find out that not all partners, or even all cohabitees, will qualify to bring a claim under the Inheritance Act. This is despite the fact that unmarried and cohabiting couples are one of the fastest growing forms of relationship in the UK in modern times.
Unfortunately, the Inheritance Act does not automatically entitle you as a partner to bring a claim under the Inheritance Act simply because you were in a relationship with the deceased. This is because the definition of a cohabiting partner who is eligible is quite specific. For a cohabitee to qualify they must for at least two years prior to the death have been living:-
- in the same household as the deceased; and
- as a married couple or civil partners.
Over the years the courts have been reasonably flexible about the definition of “living in the same household” (for example including living part of the week in separate households) and “living as a married couple” (for example allowing non-sexual relationships to qualify), but each case will be determined on its own facts. This means cohabitees have to prove their eligibility to bring a claim, unlike their married counterparts.
What can you do if you don’t qualify under the cohabitee definition?
If you don’t qualify as a cohabitee under the Inheritance Act definition then you might still be entitled to bring an Inheritance Act claim as a ‘financial dependant’ of the deceased. In fact claimants will often use this as a back-up claim, in case the Court does not accept that they satisfy the criteria of being a cohabitee.
If you don’t qualify as either a cohabitee or a dependant then you are likely to be in a precarious position in terms of being able to insist upon provision being made for you from your loved one’s estate, but it is crucially important that you seek specialist advice on this to ensure you aren’t missing out on legal arguments which can be raised to help you bring a claim.
What can I expect to receive from an Inheritance Act claim?
If you are eligible to make an inheritance claim then we will need to consider whether reasonable financial provision has been made for you from your late partner’s estate.
If reasonable financial provision has not been made for you then we can look at how the estate should be redistributed, regardless of the terms of the Will or the intestacy rules.
Various factors must be weighed in the balance when deciding what “reasonable financial provision” equates to for cohabitees (and financially dependant partners), including their financial needs and resources, their health and any promises made by the deceased for them to receive an inheritance from the estate.
You will need specialist legal advice on what reasonable financial provision looks like for you personally as well as guidance on the specific additional factors which can be taken into account when deciding how much you should receive.
The importance of expert legal advice
It is so important in these cases for specialist advice to be taken from expert inheritance lawyers. This is because the Inheritance Act provides for cohabitees (and financially dependant partners) to only benefit from the lower maintenance standard of provision, as opposed to the higher standard for spouses and civil partners. However, with a specialist inheritance solicitor on your side we will always seek to maximise your chances of recovering what you are rightfully entitled to, as close to the spousal standard as possible.
How we can help
So, if the question, ‘My partner left me out of their will, what can I do?’ is one that concerns you then call our specialist inheritance team on our free legal helpline of 0333 888 0404 for a free case assessment, or send details of your case to us at [email protected]
We can often offer alternative funding for Inheritance Act claims, including No Win, No Fee agreements, which we can discuss in more detail as part of the free case assessment.