In many relationships assets such as houses will be held in joint names, but that isn't always the case. Sheriff McGowan's decision in Slight v Hope [2021] SC Edin 24 highlights one of the risks that can arise when the sole owner suddenly dies.

Originally the house had been in the joint names of the parties but when they separated one bought out the other's share.  They subsequently reconciled and the non-owner made contributions towards the household expenses, including the mortgage payments.

Unfortunately they separated once again and, before any agreement could be reached, the sole owner died.  The survivor was not a beneficiary of the estate, but she may still have a claim that would allow her to recover what she contributed.

A situation such as this may seem unusual, but it could crop up in some scenarios.

It may be that one of the parties owned the house before the relationship and as things developed they moved in together. The non-owner may well have made contributions and, if they turn out not to be a beneficiary because of an old will that wasn't updated, could find themselves homeless as well as bereaved.

Of course, relationships shouldn't be about what you get in return for your contribution, but it's worth bearing in mind you could risk getting nothing after your partner dies.