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Law sets out spouse's rights to estate ... Last person to cohabit with the deceased gets the estate

Published:Tuesday | April 14, 2015 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding.

The Administrator General's (Amendment) Act which was passed with two amendments in the Senate on Friday, will deal with, among other things, a spouse who will have access to the estate of a person who dies intestate (without leaving a will).

Justice Minister Mark Golding told colleague senators last Friday that a significant change in the law relates to the determination of cohabitation and who are to be recognised as spouses for the purposes of intestate succession.

According to Golding, this change is necessary to address the problem that arises when more than one person claims to have cohabited with an intestate person for a minimum of five years.

"Under our law, for many purposes where you have co-habited with a person of the opposite sex for five years or more, you can be treated as a spouse for legal purposes," he said.

In the amended law, a definition of spouse is being inserted that includes a single woman who cohabited with a single man as if she were, in law, his wife for a period of not less than five years and similarly for a single man who cohabited with a single woman.

Further, in addition to defining 'spouse', the proposed amendment states that only one person shall be regarded as the spouse of the intestate and identified as the surviving spouse. The relevant single woman or single man must apply to the court for an order declaring that person to be the surviving spouse.