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We're not married. What happens to my partner's property if they die?

Question
We're not married. What happens to my partner's property if they die?

Glossary

Clear language definitions to common legal terms. 

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Reviewed: 
July, 2017
Answer

If you were living in a common-law relationship when your partner died, then what happens to their property depends on whether they had a valid will.

A will is a written legal document that says who gets a person's property after that person dies.

To be valid, your partner must have followed certain rules when making their will. For example, the rules say that a will must usually be signed by the person making it and by two witnesses.

If your partner had a valid will, you get what your partner left you in that will.

If your partner didn't have a valid will or didn't make a will, then "intestacy rules" say who inherits property. Common-law partners don't get anything under these rules. Your partner's property goes to their children or other relatives if they didn't have children.

You might also be able to make a claim to your partner’s property in some situations. For example, by making an unjust enrichment claim or a resulting trust claim. See Steps 3 and 4 for more information. These types of claims can be very hard to prove. You can talk to a lawyer who can tell you whether you have a good claim, and help you through the court process

Joint property

If you and your partner owned any money or property jointly, you usually become the sole owner of it. For example, you usually get all the money in a joint bank account.

If you and your partner owned real estate together, what happens depends on how you own the property. You become the sole owner of any real estate that the two of you held in "joint tenancy". If the two of you held real estate as "tenants in common" then your partner's share of the property goes to their estate. Their estate is then divided according to their will or intestacy rules.

If you are listed as a "beneficiary" in an insurance policy or on investment papers, you also get that money.

You might also be able to make a claim to your partner’s property in some situations. For example, by making an unjust enrichment claim or a resulting trust claim. See Steps 4 and 5 for more information. These types of claims can be very hard to prove. You can talk to a lawyer who can tell you whether you have a good claim, and help you through the court process.

Living in your home

If your partner owned your home and you aren't on the title, you can be locked out of the home after your partner dies.

You don't have the same right to live in the home after your partner's death as you would if you were married.

Other claims or benefits

You might also be able to apply for other claims or benefits. For example, you might be able to apply for support payments. See Step 5 for more information.

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