A person who dies without a will is known to have died ‘intestate’, in which case the laws of intestacy apply to their estate. In essence these laws decide who will inherit the estate which do not provide for unmarried partners and stepchildren of the family. More often than not, the individual acting in the role of parent to a child that is not their own biologically is likely to be young themselves. The need to make a will and the risk of their possible untimely death tends to be a distant thought.
Note: names have been changed for confidentiality.
In this case, a man (Alan) had died intestate in his mid-30’s. He left behind his unmarried partner (Christine), together with her daughter from a previous relationship (Jessica), and their biological son (Harry). Aged just 3 years at the time of the Alan’s death, Harry was the only member of the family entitled to the entirety of Alan’s estate under the intestacy rules.
Without being married or in a civil partnership, Christine, like many others in similar situations, had no legal entitlement to inherit any of her partner’s estate. Alan had been the main breadwinner for the young family and Christine was unable to support the household on her much smaller income. Christine therefore needed to make a claim for maintenance under The Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975.
There was also the issue of Jessica being left to receive nothing from her stepfather’s estate, whilst her half-brother was set to receive the sizeable estate. Jessica who was under the age of 18 years was represented by Flint Bishop (via a litigation friend), as she required separate legal representation to her mother. Any child treated by the deceased as a “child of the family” (whether or not the deceased was married to the child’s parent) has the right to bring a claim under The Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975. Jessica’s claim was made on this basis.