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Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practicing lawyer in England with over 10 years experience.
Please accept my condolences for your loss. From what you say you have not divorced but were separated. Is this correct please?
not divorced just separated.
Thank you. Did you have a judicial decree of separation or was the separation informal?
Pensions are typically almost always held in trust. This means that they are held outside of your husbands estate and dealt with separately to his will. The reason for this is so that the pension proceeds are not counted for inheritance tax and do not have to wait for probate necessarily to be paid out. Instead of being willed under his will rather a nomination form is typically completed giving the pension trustees notification of who is to receive the benefit of a pension after death. Sometimes the pension will contain a spousal element of benefit regardless.
Accordingly it is a question of your contacting his various pension providers with a copy of your husbands death certificate and asking the trustees for confirmation as to your entitlement under the pension trust. The pension trustees will be able to advise if you are a beneficiary. If your husband has forgotten to update his nomination forms which can often be the case, you may be a beneficairy irrespective of any change of will.
You should also be aware that even if your husband has changed his will you will have a potential claim under the Inheritance Act for reasonable financial provision. If you were married for some time, the starting point for a potential claim would often be 50% of his estate with the courts having the option to increase or decrease from this starting point depending upon the circumstances. They will have regard for your financial maintenance and the standard of living you have been accustomed to in making a determination.
How do I find out his pension/s providers? Because of the separation I do not have access to his personal papers.
Do you know who his executors are?
Thanks. There are two approaches. You can either use a pension tracing service to trace lost or unknown pensions. You could use the following form to initiate this:https://www2.dwp.gov.uk/tps-directgov/en/contact-tps/pension-tracing-form.asp
Alternatively you could contact who you believe may be his executors (if you have children or he does from another relationship these may be candidates). If he has a previous will you could contact whoever holds this to ask for a copy as you may have been the executor under a previous will. If not other will comes forward then you could act as executor under this will.
Alternatively if no will can be found then your husband may have passed away intestate. Do you have any children? Or did he from another relationship?
Yes one daughter from a previous marriage, however the daughter will not be inclined to involve me due to the nature of the separation.
Thanks. She would appear to be a prime candidate. You will need to consider approaching her to ask her if your husband made a will she knows of. If he didn't then you will be entitled to act as administrator and would be entitled to the first £250K of his estate with anything over this being split between you and the daughter with your share on a life interest trust.
In addition if he has made a will you will have as a starting point a strong claim to a share of his estate under the Inheritance Act as we discussed above and a claim must be made without fail within 6 months of any grant of probate or you can lose the right to claim.
If you prefer not to contact her directly then you may consider appointing a solicitor. Assuming your husband had assets your entitlement may be not insignificant and therefor appointing a solicitor may be worthwhile to assist you.
Many thanks for your advice.
In any event you can apply for a standing search of the probate register which has to be renewed every 6 months which will tell you when a grant of probate is applied for. From this you can determine when to make a claim under the Inheritance Act if you need to and decide to. In order to apply for a standing search you need to write to the below address with a cheque for £6 stating your husbands full name, date of birth, date of death, last address, and if known place of death. You can write to this address: Postal Searches and Copies Department Leeds District Probate RegistryYork HouseYork PlaceLeedsLS1 2BA
Remember it expires after 6 months and must be renewed to stay active.
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