Cohabitee succeeds in claim against late partner's estate

Abbie Kingdon  07-05-2015

A cohabitee has recently succeeded in a claim against her late partner’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

In the case of Thompson v Raggett the High Court ruled in favour of Ms Thompson, the partner of the deceased, who at age 79 had been a partner to the deceased (Wyndford Hodge) for the past 42 years. Under the terms of his will, Mr Hodge had left his £1.5 million estate to friends and tenants.

The Court ruled that Ms Thompson should be given reasonable provision for her maintenance. On reaching its decision, the court took into account factors such as the length of their relationship and the fact that Ms Thompson was financially dependant on Mr Hodge. Ms Thompson was awarded a property worth £225k which had been purchased with a view to the couple living there during their retirement. In addition to the property, Thompson was awarded £160k for her future maintenance and care and £28,845 for renovation work to the property.

Currently, cohabitees have no statutory rights to their partner’s estate to secure financial provision which reflects their contribution to the relationship, and so the ruling is of particular significance. The court departed from the usual consideration of granting a cohabitee a life interest in a property (i.e. the right to live in the property until they die) and instead provided for an outright transfer of the property to her. 

The ruling follows on from the decision in Illott v The Blue Cross & Others, in which the issue of “reasonable provision” was also considered, whereby a daughter was awarded £50k from her late mother’s estate worth £500k, despite being estranged from her.

Abbie Kingdon of Samuels Solicitors LLP’s private client department says: “it remains to be seen whether this paves the future for cohabitees, but this is an important decision which must now be taken into consideration when wills are prepared for anyone who might be living with a cohabitee".  

Samuels are experts in assisting clients with disputes about inheritance. These disputes can be complex and long running, and it is important to seek expert advice at an early stage. Contact us for a free initial discussion about your concerns.