Does an unmarried woman have any rights after her long term partner passes without a will? 5 Answers as of March 04, 2016

My sister lived with her partner for over 25 years. They never married. Unexpectedly, he passed leaving no will. Now, his previously estranged family has come to town with the intent of evicting her from her home and liquidating all the properties. This includes not just her home, but several personal items, antiques from our side of the family, gifts her partner gave her over time, and the very bed they slept together in. Does she have any rights at all? A near 60 year old, grieving, woman will soon be homeless!

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Law Offices of George H. Shers | George H. Shers
She has no right to inherit anything, but she has a right to all of her own personal property, including any gifts she was given, or anything she brought to their home and did not clearly give ownership to him [if she did, which no one will know except her, she may have retained half ownership]. That is one of the reasons a woman demand marriage if she will live with a man for any length of time. If the house was in both names, she is entitled to half of it. ?If she can show you contributed to the house by working on part of it, paying a portion of the mortgage or taxes or utility bills, then she might be able to convince a judge that she is entitled to at least the value of those contributions back, and maybe with some inflation factor. She has the right to remove her things in a reasonable manner from the house, just as an evicted tenant would have, although disputed items might have to be held in trust for a judge to decide ownership [but unless she told someone that she gave up ownership, they can not prove that since whatever he said would be inadmissible hearsay].
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/4/2016
Danville Law Group | Scott Jordan
Yes, your sister does have rights. Under California Family Law, she may even have a claim to 1/2 of her partners estate. But, certainly she is entitled to keep what belongs to her. She needs to contact a family law attorney in her area immediately.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/4/2016
Patrick W. Currin, Attorney at Law | Patrick Currin
Unfortunately, this is what can happen when people don't draft a will or trust. The state rules concerning intestate succession kick in. A spouse has rights over distant relatives,a girlfriend only has rights to property that she can prove were hers alone.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/4/2016
Law Office of Nathan Wagner
Law Office of Nathan Wagner | Nathan J. Wagner
What state(s) did they live in together? She might be his common law wife, if they lived in a state that recognizes common law marriage. Otherwise, his family would inherit the things that belonged to him. However, they have no claim on your sister's family heirlooms and other items that belong only to her. This is a very common problem. Unmarried couples need estate plans or they need to be very clear about keeping their assets separate.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/4/2016
Law Office of Jeffrey T. Reed | Jeffrey T. Reed
She has quite a few options depending on the circumstances and it sounds like she could easily challenge any action the family might bring. She should probably consult with an attorney as soon as possible to discuss her options.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/4/2016
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