Legal advice for farmers: Is there legal protection for life partners?

It is often said that behind every good man is a good woman.
Legal advice for farmers: Is there legal protection for life partners?
The Irish courts have refused to accept that a partner’s contribution by working in the home, whether performing housework or looking after children, gives rise to a beneficial interest.
The Irish courts have refused to accept that a partner’s contribution by working in the home, whether performing housework or looking after children, gives rise to a beneficial interest.

It is often said that behind every good man is a good woman.

The reality is that there are many relationships in order for a man to run a business.

There is a woman helping to raise children and run a household, while putting her own career on hold, or giving it up entirely.

So, what happens if life doesn’t go to plan, and the relationship does not work out, or your husband/partner dies unexpectedly?

How are you protected?

If the farm is in your husband’s sole name, and you are given nothing, or very little in the will, you are entitled to take your legal right share (an automatic right to a share of the estate), which is one-third of everything he owns at the date of death.

If there are no children, you are entitled to half of everything your husband owns at the date of death.

The executor of the will has to notify you of your rights to take your legal right share, and you can elect to take it or not.

It is your choice.

You should note that there are strict time limits to elect.

If your husband dies without making a will, you are entitled to everything he owns, if there are no children.

If there are children, you are entitled to two-thirds of everything he owns, with the children entitled to the other one-third.

In addition, where the court is satisfied that a transfer of property within three years of the death of the person who made the transfer occurred for the purpose of defeating or substantially diminishing the share of the deceased persons spouse, the court may order that the transfer be set aside, and have no effect.

It is generally considered that the person who pays for a property has the legal and beneficial interest in that property.

But what about unpaid work by you?

Does that entitle you to claim ownership in a house or farm?

The current position is that unpaid work in the legal owner’s business is sufficient to trigger a claim, while work in the home is not.

The Irish courts have refused to accept that a partner’s contribution by working in the home, whether performing housework or looking after children, gives rise to a beneficial interest.

Work on the farm is work in the husband’s business, and thus, should give rise to a claim to an interest in the land.

“Indirect” contributions to the repayment of a mortgage, through the payment of household expenses, are seen as freeing up the legal owner’s resources to pay off the mortgage.

They will generate a share in the property, in the absence of any contrary intention.

Paying for the building of an extension for example, albeit it increases the value of the house, does not create an interest, unless one can establish that it was specifically agreed, or that you were led to believe that you would be recompensed for it.

The family home is given special status under the Family Home Protection Act, which prevents the family home from being transferred without your knowledge and consent.

A spouse’s prior written consent is required to transfer the family home.

Under the terms of a separation or divorce, the court can make property adjustment orders, which require the husband to transfer property into the name of the wife.

This depends on circumstances such as the length of the marriage, whether you have worked outside the home, whether the farm was purchased or inherited, whether there are dependent children, etc.

For cohabiting couples, there is a redress scheme to provide for provision at the end of a relationship through death or otherwise.

This is available where the couple has been cohabiting and in an intimate and committed relationship for five years, or two years where there is a child of the relationship.

Karen Walsh, from a farming background, is a solicitor practicing in Walsh & Partners, Solicitors, 17, South Mall, Cork (021-4270200), and author of ‘Farming and the Law’. Walsh & Partners also specialises in personal injury claims, conveyancing, probate and family law.

- Email: info@walshandpartners.ie

- Web: www.walshandpartners.ie

While every care is taken to ensure accuracy of information contained in this article, solicitor Karen Walsh does not accept responsibility for errors or omissions howsoever arising, and you should seek legal advice in relation to your particular circumstances at the earliest possible time.

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