High Court Rules that female cohabitee is entitled to share of deceased partner’s estate

Solicitor Gemma Nolan comments on a recent landmark ruling where the High Court has found in favour of a 79 year old woman, after her partner of 42 years left her out of his will.

Ms Thompson had lived with her partner, Mr Hodge, for 42 years and had been financially dependent upon him during his lifetime. His estate was estimated to be worth in the region of £1.5 million which he had left to tenants and friends.

His Honour Judge Jarman QC of the High Court ruled in favour of Ms Thompson who was granted a property worth £225,000 plus £28,845 to carry out renovations  and a further £160,000 for her future maintenance.

According to Mr Hodge’s letters of wishes, he did not include Ms Thompson in his will because he did not want her four children to benefit from it. Reason for this being that he had no contact with them and that they had previously taken advantage of him financially.

The Judge said that “whilst the wishes of Mr Hodge that Ms Thompson’s family should not benefit from any provision for her should be given appropriate weight, those wishes should not hinder the reasonable provision for her maintenance. That is the mistake that he made in his letters of wishes which led to no provision at all being made.”

The implications for cohabitees is wide reaching and, whilst they currently have no statutory rights to a partner’s estate, this case shows the Court’s willingness to secure financial provision for cohabitees that reflects their contribution.

However, whilst this is good news for cohabitees, what is ‘reasonable provision’ is open to interpretation and each case considered on its facts. Ms Thompson had been with her partner and his dependent for 42 years which is why the Judge considered it reasonable in this instance to provide for her maintenance.

If you have any concerns as to whether a will is valid or that the distribution of an estate is not being managed correctly, please contact Gemma on 023 9282 0747.

May 2018.

 

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