A Horrible Result for An Unmarried Couple
This is for all the unmarried couples out there living together.
As an attorney handling estate matters for the past 50 years, one of the most difficult situations I have to deal with is a phone call from a significant other about the death of his/her partner and there is no Last Will & Testament. It happened again this week. The call came from a partner of 20 years. Her significant other died 9 months ago. He had no Will. The house they lived in was in his name and worth $450,000 with no mortgage. Over the years, she had helped with repairs, improvements and paying the mortgage. He was divorced with one adopted daughter from whom he was long ago estranged; he hadn’t spoken with her in over 30 years. The partner wanted to know if there was any way under Maryland probate law for her to get a distribution from his estate, part of the house, or a reimbursement for the thousands of dollars she had put into the house over the years. This is one of the areas of law where things tend to be black and white – The answer to each of her questions was – No. Under Maryland law, the house is subject to probate. Because he had no Will, Maryland intestate law specifies that his sole heir is his adopted daughter. Finally, a claim for reimbursement for contributions is a claim against her deceased partner and such claims must be filed within 6 months of the date of death.
So, if you are in such a relationship and you care about your partner (and for that matter, yourself), put a Will into place and, while you are at it, solve some other issues that might pop up while you are alive and put a financial power of attorney and medical advance directive into place.