Posted by Mike Muston, Senior Associate
Does your Will provide for your partner?
These days it’s more and more common for couples to live together without being married. Whether they have been married before or are simply separated from their spouse, these situations regularly result in inheritance disputes in the event of an untimely death.
Recently the court had to consider the question of the rights of a cohabiting partner in the case of Martin v Williams. The claimant, Joy Williams, made a claim for reasonable financial provision against her late partner’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
Joy’s partner, Norman Martin, was separated from his wife, Maureen and had been living with Joy for around 20 years. However, Norman and Maureen had not divorced and still owned joint property together. Norman’s Will, which dated back to 1986, also left his whole estate to his wife. Joy was therefore left owning only half of the property in which she and Norman lived (with Margaret due to inherit the other half) and without her partner to help contribute towards their regular outgoings.
Initially, Joy was awarded the entirety of Norman’s 50% interest in the property. However, Maureen appealed against this decision, believing that the award was excessive. Maureen argued that Joy’s needs could be met by providing her with a “life interest” over her husband’s share, which would enable Joy to live in the property for the remainder of her life. Joy also had an interest in her late father’s property, however this was occupied by her sister, whom she preferred not to evict.
Ultimately, the judge agreed with the points raised by Maureen and her appeal was successful.
Costs of contesting a Will
It wasn’t clear exactly what Norman would have provided for Joy had he made changes to his Will. However, after going to court twice, what is clear is that both Joy and Maureen would have paid significant legal costs. There is no doubt that Norman would not have wanted this.
Avoiding a Will dispute
Cases like this highlight that it is very important for people to consider the content of their Wills, particularly over time as their family and relationship positions change. If this is not done, then the result can be an unfortunate and expensive legal battle.
If you need advice about updating your Will or an inheritance dispute contact our specialist team on
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