father died without leaving a will

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micksimari | 00:45 Tue 24th Jan 2006 | Business & Finance
7 Answers

My father died allmost 4 years ago without leaving a will, on his death his estate passed to his wife our stepmother, then on her death it turns out ,she had left a will written two years before our fathers illness and subsequent death, leaving everything to her two children, cutting my fathers three natural born children out of the equasion alltogether.

Is this the law or do we have a claim on our fathers estate??????? morally this can not be correct or is this another example of where the law is an ass.

Thanks in anticipation Mick


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Unless you were dependent in some way on your stepmother, then I am fairly sure you will have no claim as his widow she would be free to leave her estate to whom she chooses. It is no different than if she were your natural mother and decided to leave it all to a donkey sanctuary you would not have a claim unless you were in some way financially dependent on her. Hopefully someone with some legal knowledge will reply more comprehensively but that is what I suspect the answer will be. People can leave their estates to who they choose.

Check out "Intestacy "on the Inland Revenues inheritance tax section. I think the time to contest things was when the estate passed to your stepmother, I do not know if there is a statute of limitations on claiming, you need to speak to a solicitor.
You should seek proper legal advice, but this is my understanding of the situation;

The Rules of Intestacy determine how your father's estate was administered and, if it was worth less than �125,000, it would pass in its entirety to a surviving spouse thus leaving no claim for the surviving children.

Harsh as it may seem, it does appear that there is no recourse other than convincing your step-siblings to "do the right thing". However I do not think you are correct in blaming this on a law which only applies when someone dies without having put their own affairs in order... surely any responsibility rests with the individual to leave a will.

I hope the matter gets resolved to your advantage.
It looks bleak for you on the face of it, micksimari, but you need to get to a Citzens'Advice Bureau or a solicitor as fast as you can. I believe a first half hour consultation with a solicitor is �30 or so if you claim that as you make the appointment(check with the Law Society). There just might be a legal precedent set by a similar case. Legal precedents are set on all the time. Whilst it is still fairly recent it should be traceable what your dad left. You must say about any years you all lived together. Have a talk with a professional for a firm answer.
By all means take legal advice, but my feeling is that unfortunately you have no claim because, in England, there is complete testamentary freedom. In countries like France the children are automatically entitled to a part of the parent's estate, whatever the will says. Here, this would be regarded as iniquitous ("nobody tells me what to do with my money - I leave to whomever I want"). For what it's worth, I think it is totally unfair.

All: It could all hinge on how the stepmother's Will was worded as it was it was made two years before the father's death. Also there might be some way in which micksimari could contest the Will, if there is a precedent about all children being brought up together as a family. It's worth asking advice when there's the tiniest doubt. Long ago my grandad died and his widow - my step-grandmother got his estate and everyone lost touch. His adult daughters didn't get even a memento. As there were no children being brought up as a family that case was clear-cut re her wishes, but this could be different if all the children were jointly brought up as one family. What a mess the absence of Wills create or if there is one it can be so vague. I've heard so many stories on that, too, where the wishes weren't definite enough.

micksimari: It's worth a consultation, when there's the tiniest doubt. Were all you children of similar ages and were you all brought up together, perhaps leaving home all at the same time, like blood brothers or sisters? You might have grounds to contest a share. Good luck!


If you look at this as assets.

As your father didn't have a will his estate was left to his next of kin being his wife who was the legal joint owner of assets. Even if he hadn't died she had a right to half before death just for being his wife. But unfortunatly your father died and she was left all assets leaving it for her to distribute how she wished, and it is her last will and testament that stands in law. When she died she passed on assets that were legally all hers and it could be disputed that you were happy for her to own all your fathers assets whilst she was alive.

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