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My father recently passed away with no will. Does his significant other have any right to any assets?

Kingsport, TN |

My father had significant other for 28 years. They lived in the state of Virginia only. Very much a love/hate relationship. He left no will with multiple properties and business. She isn't listed on anything such as deeds or any checking accounts. My father did request she be left certain properties only by telling me while he was in the hospital prior to his death. He also told some people what his wishes were, but not documented. Does she have any legal right to these wishes? Due to her stability, I fear that she cannot fulfill duties of upkeep to these properties and other things that have transpired over the last month that I know my father would not have stood for. I feel like I pretty much know the answer to this, just need clarification.

Attorney Answers 3


An estate belongs to the beneficiaries of a valid will. When there is not will, the estate belongs to the heirs. Heirship is based on blood and legal relationships, none of which extend to a "significant other." Be aware that not all assets are "probate assets." Where there are valid beneficiary designations, as with life insurance, annuities, IRAs, etc., the beneficiary designation generally controls. Based on your description, the SO has no claim to the estate. This, of course, is the legal analysis, and based on your father's stated wishes you may understandably feel a moral obligation to provide for the surviving SO. A consultation with an experienced probate attorney will be invaluable for exploring ways to comply with the spirit of your father's wishes without risking waste secondary to her inability to manage.

Best wishes for an outcome you can accept, and please remember to designate a best answer.

This answer is offered as a public service for general information only and may not be relied upon as legal advice.

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Verbal promises are not valid in estate planning.
The natural heirs will be the beneficiaries of the estate
by law because a will did not exist.
Very sorry for your loss.

The answer given does not imply that an attorney-client relationship has been established and your best course of action is to have legal representation in this matter.

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I'm sorry for your loss. As noted by Attorneys Sinclair and Pippen, only legal heirs are entitled to solely-owned assets in an intestate administration. Accordingly, unless his significant other can establish a claim against his estate (for example: she advanced him funds evidenced by a promissory note), she is not likely to receive any assets or be entitled to use the estate properties. As you know, this is a very sticky situation, so please retain an experienced attorney who can guide you through the probate process and run interference against the significant other. Good luck to you.

This information is presented as a public service. It should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor considered to be the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. I am licensed in Connecticut and New York and my answers are based upon the law in those jurisdictions. My answer to any specific question would likely be different if I were to review a client's file and have the opportunity to interview the client. Accordingly, I strongly urge you to retain an attorney in your jurisdiction with respect to any legal matter.

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