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November 16, 2012
Star Features


Claiming property in a common-law relationship

A woman has complained that she has nowhere to live because the relatives of her common-law husband threw out her clothes from the house in which they were living for the last 10 years.

She said, when she met him he already had the house, but she worked and helped him to put in new fixtures in the house such as kitchen cupboards and closets.

"I had no intention of taking away this man's house, because I know he has several children who are all adults," she explained.

"For the last 10 years, I have been living with a man who was my former schoolmate. We had a very good relationship and we were even planning to get married. "He died suddenly this year and, a week after his death, his relatives including his adult children came to the house and threw out my clothes. They just said they were claiming the house because I did not contribute to the purchase.

"They did not even allow me to take the bed I bought or any appliances or other furniture, because they assumed that everything in the house belonged to their father. "One of the sons said he wanted the house to live in, because he had to be paying rent while I have been living free in his father's house. I told them I did not intend to take over the house, but at least they could have given me some time to get somewhere to rent.

"One of the sons said their father ran their mother out of the house and took me in to live like a queen. There is no truth to what he is saying, because when I met his father he was not living with anyone. Many times, it was my money I used to run the house because their father was a furniture maker and it was not all the time he got jobs to do.

"I used to encourage him to make a will, but he ignored me saying that, if anything should happen to him, his children would not interfere with me.

"I have receipts for some of the furniture in the house and my sister was advising me to go with the police and get my things from the house. Another friend has suggested that I should challenge the matter in court, because as a common-law wife, I have rights," she said.

It is true that you are entitled to benefits from his estate, and this is under the Intestates' Estates and Property Charges Act. There is a table of distribution in the act and it outlines how the property should be divided. Under the act, a spouse includes a single woman who has lived and cohabited with a single man and a single man, who has cohabited with a single woman for a period of not less than five years preceding the date of his or her death. If you are interested in benefiting from the estate, you should consult a lawyer to make a claim for you under the act.

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