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Relationship Property

December 2019

Option election within 6 months – relationship property – death of one partner – distribution of estate assets

When a person dies, who has been recently in a relationship, the other party (“claimant”) may accept what is in the deceased’s Will or elect the bring a relationship property claim.  

However, if it is intended to bring a claim against the estate, then there is a strict time limit to comply with. The Property (Relationships) Act 1976 requires that the claimant must make an option election, to bring a claim, within six (6) monthsof the date of death or within six (6) months of the date of granting administration of the estate by the High Court (where an administration grant is required).

If that time limit is missed then there are only limited circumstances where the Court will extend the time limit. If the estate has had a final distribution to beneficiaries the time limit will not be extended.

Accordingly, a potential claimant must make decisions promptly, obtain legal advice then ensure that the option election is made and communicated formally to the estate’s lawyer or those responsible for the estate or the High Court (all within the six-month period). As a recent High Court appeal noted, not pursuing an option election for over two years after a grant of probate of the deceased’s Will and after there had been a final distribution of the estate assets, the Court was not persuaded to now permit a claim by the claimant.