If I die without a Will, can my common law partner claim my estate?

Stieg Larsson’s Story

Stieg Larsson was the author of the Millennium trilogy, a series of bestselling crime novels that began with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” His novels have sold about 55 million copies worldwide and were made into a hit movie.

From the age of 18, Stieg lived with Eva Gabrielsson, but they never married and had no children. Stieg never got around to writing a will. When he died in 2004 at the age of 50, Eva was not legally entitled to any portion of his estate, despite their common-law relationship of over 30 years and her contributions to the success of his books. Stieg’s entire estate went to his father and brother.

A complicating factor was that Stieg left an unfinished manuscript for a fourth novel in his Millennium series on his laptop, which Eva refused to turn over to his father and brother, because she felt she was the proper person to manage all of his literary property. Eva struggled for years to gain control over his estate but ultimately, she was unsuccessful. She wrote a memoir called “There Are Things I Want You to Know” About Stieg Larsson and Me.

Lawyer’s Comment: If you neglect to write a will, your life partner may suffer the consequences. While it may seem out of date for the law to treat common law and married couples differently, another way to look at it is that adults have a choice about whether to opt into mandatory sharing with their partner (by getting married) or keeping more control over their individual property (by not marrying their partner).

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