Separated not divorced

We are separated not divorced and my wife has died.

My probate question: I wonder if you could help me my wife passed away on the 18th January – we separated 12 years ago but never divorced.
My son had a joint bank account with her, which I have been told its frozen but he has taken money for funeral costs out.
My wife has other bank accounts just in her name but don’t know which banks or building society they are from what I would like to know I am I entitled to anything, I am very hard up and 87? I was wondering if I could get legal aid to help?

JM (details changed to protect identity)

Probate Question reply (made on the information given, and will not always apply).

The first thing anyone should do when separating to write a new Last Will.  However, it is too late for that sadly.

Chances are that you will be entitled to all or most of your wife’s estate as you were still legally married. UNLESS there was a formal judicial separation, which is unusual.

There is no issue with funeral costs coming out of the bank account, but the chances are that bank account may pass automatically to you son outside the estate if he was listed as joint owner rather than just as a signatory. This is a common mistake, usually made unintentionally, but in some cases it disinherits all the other beneficiaries as a joint account (rather than one with signing rights for a third party) passes automatically to the surviving joint owner.

I don’t believe you can get legal aid for probate work, but we do provide a low cost service or offer our site.

You could also make an appointment to talk to Citizens Advice, but it may be that all that is necessary is to write to your son enclosing a copy of our Intestacy Guide which I have attached asking for the full details of her estate so that you can obtain probate, assuming it is needed.

If you feel that he might attempt to deal with probate improperly, you can make arrangements to enter a note at the Probate Registry to prevent that (we can help with the formal process). As the legal next of kin, you have the right to apply for probate, not your son.

You probably could do with help, but it does depend on the value of your wife’s estate as to whether it is worth it.

Our  fees are much below most lawyers, so do feel free to come back to us should you wish to.


Nothing in this email should be taken as advice without a full paid review of your situation.