You can be between a rock and hard place if your partner did not leave a will, even though you lived together for twenty years and shared expenses. That’s because the UK probate system only recognizes relationships confirmed in a marriage or civil partnership. Otherwise family that didn’t approve of you can kick you out the house and grab the lot.
In That Case, You Have no Automatic Right to Inherit
The rules of intestacy in England and Wales lay down the order of succession where a person dies without a will.
# If the estate is worth under £250,000 their marriage or civil partner gets the lot
# If it is worth more, and there are no children they still inherit the lot, unless …
# If there are children, these get a share of 50% excluding property / belongings
# If none of the above applies then other close relatives may join an orderly queue
This could be one of many reasons why aunties and uncles, nephews and nieces, and brothers and sisters are unenthusiastic when a confirmed spinster or bachelor falls head over heels in love.
Therefore, In an Informal Relationship You Need to Find the Will
You really need to pull out all the stops if you are between this particular rock and hard place. The secret is not to panic but rather to follow these logical steps:
Look on Their Computer
Most of us jot down our thoughts on our computers when preparing for important decisions. Search for ‘will’ ‘testament’ and ‘estate’ on their device. If you find an interesting document, note the first and final creation date. Knowing when your partner was thinking of making a will is useful when searching through their diary.
Search the House
People with wills at solicitors usually keep copies at home for reference. Some may leave them in envelopes clearly labelled ‘my will’. Others are more secretive, although they usually store them in files and boxes. Work methodically room by room. Keep an eye out for a solicitor’s business card you can contact for advice.
Check with Family and Friends
Folk with a potential interest in a estate are invariably curious to know what’s in a will. People leaving one are equally keen for someone to find it. Therefore, it makes good sense to chat with family and friends about this. Surprisingly often, a testator leaves a copy with someone they can trust. Even if this is just an unsigned copy this at least confirms could be an original will somewhere.
Speak to Your Partner’s Bank Manager
Many UK residents still nominate their bank as co-executor. This can be a good idea if they have complex financial arrangements to unpick. Bank managers are naturally cautious about protecting a client’s interests. Therefore, you will need to arm yourself with convincing proof of your relationship.
Log on to The UK Gazette
By now, several weeks may have elapsed since your late partner passed away. If somebody unknown to you is the executor of their will – typically a solicitor – they may have already taken steps to execute it.
However, they first have to ask the Probate Office for permission to do so. In that case, you can search the official record which may by now include a copy of the will.