Intestate death and complications for common-law wife and tenancy.

Hi, i would very much appreciate any comments and suggestions on the following; i am working with someone ( as a mental health professional) whose partner has recently passed away.  They were never married but were together for over 30 years and changed their married name by deed poll about 30 years ago.  The partner became ill about 5 years ago and was trying to sort out his paperwork before then moving into a care home.  He said he made a will and told his partner (whom I am working with) that she would never have to worry about rent as it will be paid from his finances - they moved about 12 times over the last few years and they bought a house on shared ownership where she now lives.  They had a bank account but it was in his name.  She, due to her mental health condition, does not 'do paperwork' and cannot understand it.  Her sister-in-law was always down as his next of kin and has contacted the solicitor who he said the will was with but they say they do not have it.  She has made an attempt to look for one in the flat but has not found it. She is now liable for paying rent but cannot face having to deal with the paperwork involved in this nor can afford it as she only has a state pension.  The way they organised things was that  she paid for food and some of the bills while his pension paid the rent and everything else.   The local council Client Affairs team were dealing with his finances and have been in touch with the sister-in-law to say that his account is now closed.  She and her sister-in-law do have a strained relationship and only communicate when necessary.  

Would anyone know what she could do to help her situation or an organisation that i could put her in touch with please?  any comments and suggestions will be much appreciated.
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  • bobster2
    bobster2 Posts: 442
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    edited 5 January at 1:00PM
    Could try searching for an online record of the will...
    For the house - by "shared ownership" you mean they owned it partly and pay rent to a house association for the remainder? Was she definitely on the deeds as an owner along with her partner?
  • Keep_pedalling
    Keep_pedalling Posts: 16,193
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    Oh dear this is going to be very difficult if he truly died intestate. What is her relationship with her partners sister like? Did he have any children? 
  • Grumpelstiltskin
    Grumpelstiltskin Posts: 4,127
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    Unfortunately if they were not married then she can't be next of kin.

    If there isn't a will then it could get messy, 

    You do need to find out whether she was on the mortgage ( if there was one ) if it was only in her partner's name again it could get messy.
    If you go down to the woods today you better not go alone.
  • Marcon
    Marcon Posts: 9,975
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    edited 5 January at 1:23PM
    Unfortunately if they were not married then she can't be next of kin.

    If there isn't a will then it could get messy, 

    You do need to find out whether she was on the mortgage ( if there was one ) if it was only in her partner's name again it could get messy.
    Next of kin has no legal meaning under UK law - it just means 'person closest to...', so there's no reason a long term partner couldn't be seen as 'next of kin' for practical purposes. 

    Unfortunately, the same isn't true of intestacy. She could make a claim for 'reasonable provision' from the estate, but given her mental condition, it's hard to see how she would ever jump all the hurdles, even with considerable assistance.

    Being a long term partner living in a relationship akin to marriage could come into play if there is a private pension of some description. Have you been able to check if her late partner had any such provision (ie anything over and above his state pension)? If his pension 'paid the rent and everything else', it suggests he might had done. Worth a check on gretel.co.uk (free) to see if he had any savings etc she may not have known about/lost track of, especially if she 'doesn't do' paperwork.


    Googling on your question might have been both quicker and easier, if you're only after simple facts rather than opinions!  
  • Grumpelstiltskin
    Grumpelstiltskin Posts: 4,127
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    Marcon That's what I meant, just didn't explain it properly.

    If the sister in law is the closest relative and there isn't a will then it could become very messy if she doesn't get on.

    Even getting access to the partner's bank account won't be on. Can she search for a bank statement? That  would at least give an idea if he had a private pension.
    If you go down to the woods today you better not go alone.
  • Flugelhorn
    Flugelhorn Posts: 5,418
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    Does sound very difficult situation - probably need to try a few other local solicitors just in case and also do some more hunting for the will in the flat + also the stuff he had at the care home. 

    She is unlikely to get anything from his estate - of she wants to stay in the property, someone needs to sit down with her and sort the finances and see if there is anything else she can claim - and also check bank statements for private pension  payments 
  • RAS
    RAS Posts: 32,461
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    You really do need to know whether the property was held as tenants in common or as a joint tenancy.

    If it was a joint tenancy, the equity in the house will now be wholly owned by the survivor, your client.
    If it's tenants in common and there is no will, under the insolvency rules the sister in law inherits his portion, assuming the deceased parents are dead. 

    It costs £3 to check the Land Registry information on the gov.uk site.

    Did the deceased have life insurance to cover the mortgage, or any other life insurance? You need to search for that, check bank statements for DDs or SOs. Even if the deceased didn't nominate their partner as beneficiary of other policies, the provider might allocate it to her if no-one else is nominated.

    And your client needs to urgently claim housing benefit to cover the rental portion of the housing cost, and possibly any service charges, even if it's only a stop gap. She needs a copy of the existing rental agreement to claim it. So CAB or another local benefit support provider can help sort that out. Again, they'll be evidence of the monthly payment value in bank statements.
    The person who has not made a mistake, has made nothing
  • Keep_pedalling
    Keep_pedalling Posts: 16,193
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    HRAS said:
    You really do need to know whether the property was held as tenants in common or as a joint tenancy.

    If it was a joint tenancy, the equity in the house will now be wholly owned by the survivor, your client.
    If it's tenants in common and there is no will, under the insolvency rules the sister in law inherits his portion, assuming the deceased parents are dead. 

    It costs £3 to check the Land Registry information on the gov.uk site.

    Did the deceased have life insurance to cover the mortgage, or any other life insurance? You need to search for that, check bank statements for DDs or SOs. Even if the deceased didn't nominate their partner as beneficiary of other policies, the provider might allocate it to her if no-one else is nominated.

    And your client needs to urgently claim housing benefit to cover the rental portion of the housing cost, and possibly any service charges, even if it's only a stop gap. She needs a copy of the existing rental agreement to claim it. So CAB or another local benefit support provider can help sort that out. Again, they'll be evidence of the monthly payment value in bank statements.
    I would imaging with a shared ownership it would have to be TiC otherwise on the death of the residents it would pass back to the housing association.
  • Rhubarbium
    Rhubarbium Posts: 11
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    Wonder if she is a named beneficiary on his private / workplace pension (if he had one)
  • Craftythorny
    Craftythorny Posts: 15
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    Thank you all so much for your comments; i passed them on to my client and she has updated me with more developments;
    her sister-in-law said she was meeting with a solicitor about his estate.  Apparently, as  next of kin, her sister-in-law will receive his pension, and also is not telling my client who the solicitor is after i told her that she is entitled to make a claim for reasonable provision from his estate. She has suddenly been hit with a rent bill for the previous 2 months which has come out of her own savings and drained them quite a bit.  She called the housing people who told her that she is now liable, and she will struggle to afford it.   With her mental health i think they are going to call her to offer her some kind of support to apply for other benefits but she will still struggle with the paperwork, and if she has to move it will be a huge impact on her.  Does she have the right to demand from the sister-in-law who the solicitor is so she can contact them?  It seems the housing people said that although the pension went to her sister-in-law she could gift it to my client who really needs it - her sister-in-law is reasonably well-off, but she doubts she will do this.  My client has found her old driving licence from about 30 years ago and has her partner's one, both of which have their deed poll name on - they never married and this is the only evidence she has that they were together for all those years and changed their name by deed poll.  Would this stand as evidence if needed when making a claim for reasonable provision?

    Thank you once again in anticipation of any helpful information.  
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