The long term partner and cohabitee

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Kathleen* was in her late fifties when Joan* passed away. They owned their home together. Kathleen and Joan had previously been in a relationship but this ended shortly before Joan’s death.

Joan never made a will.  She had two adult children from a previous relationship.

The problem

As Joan didn’t make a will, the law says her estate should be shared equally between her two children.

Joan’s half share in the property passed to her children on her death.

Whilst Kathleen owned a share of the property, she did not have the right to remain there and unless she could purchase Joan’s share from her children, the house would need to be sold and the proceeds distributed.  Kathleen’s share in the sale proceeds was not sufficient to purchase another house.

The law

Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act, Kathleen may have been entitled to claim reasonable financial provision if she could show that she was her long-term partner of more than two years and/or that Joan had financially supported her for the two years’ immediately before her death.

What happened next?

Kathleen sought legal advice and brought a claim. We were instructed by one of Joan’s children to defend the claim. We did so on the basis that the relationship had ended prior to Joan’s death and there was no evidence that she had financially supported Kathleen.

The financial position of Joan’s children was no better than that of Kathleen. This was something the Court would have to consider as part of Kathleen’s claim.

Mediation was attempted but was unsuccessful. The parties prepared for court and eventually the parties reached an agreement to avoid the trial. Kathleen received a small lump sum payment from Joan’s estate, the majority of which was to cover payment of her legal costs. The rest of the estate was split equally between Joan’s two children, including payment of their legal costs.

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