Jill & Max
By Tammy McLeod
Jill and Max had been married for a number of years. It was the second marriage for both of them, and they both had adult children from previous marriages. They had always pooled their finances and had joint bank accounts, but the home that they had been living in for the past ten years was Max’s property which he had bought when he split from his first wife. The property was registered in his sole name.
Sadly not long after coming back from a holiday, Jill woke up one morning with a terrible headache. Max called an ambulance, but unfortunately, Jill had suffered a major brain aneurysm, and as soon as she reached hospital she was in a coma and was put on life support. The decision was made to turn her life support off early the following morning.
Six weeks’ after Jill’s death, Max went to see their lawyer to look at her will. As all of their bank accounts were in joint names, their lawyer explained that all Max needed to do was to take Jill’s death certificate to the bank to arrange for the accounts to be put into his name only. Jill had named her eldest son, Mark, as executor of her will, but as she had no assets in her name, Mark wouldn’t need to apply for probate.
However, about a month after Max had been to see the lawyer, he received an email from a different lawyer. This lawyer said that he was acting for Mark as executor of Jill’s estate and that the estate would be making a claim for relationship property. Mark immediately rang his lawyer to see what this meant.
His lawyer explained to him that under the Property (Relationships) Act, property rights upon death are the same as upon separation. Not only did Jill’s estate have a claim for half of the money in their joint bank accounts, but it also had a claim for half of Max’s house that he had owned with no mortgage well before his relationship with Jill.
Max was understandingly devastated. He, unfortunately, learnt the hard way that even though he and Jill had had a good relationship and understanding concerning money, they had never considered how their children might act if one of them died.