Cohabiting Warning

Date Added 04.03.16

How would you feel if you lost half your home of 18 years to your partner’s estranged wife?

This is exactly what Joy Williams faced when her partner Norman Martin suffered a heart attack and passed away. The couple bought the house together in 2009. Joy Williams, 69, lived with Norman Martin, a dentist, for 18 years, but he remained married to his wife. Williams and Martin owned their three-bedroom home in Dorchester, Dorset, as tenants in common, which meant the property – now valued at about £320,000 – did not automatically pass to Williams after her partner’s death in 2012.

Joy Williams brought a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for family and dependants) Act 1975 for reasonable financial provision from the Estate of her late partner. Such a claim is a claim for maintenance from the Deceased’s estate, where it is believed that the provision made for the Claimant by the Deceased from their Estate is not adequate for their reasonable financial needs. 

This case, recently reported upon in the Guardian was heard by Judge Nigel Gerald, in a ruling lasting almost four hours.  A “fair and reasonable result”, the judge concluded, was that Joy Williams should “retain an absolute interest” in the house where she and Mr Martin had lived as husband and wife in a “loving and committed” relationship.

Joy Williams told the Guardian:

“I am relieved and delighted that this case is finally over because it has taken a huge toll on me and my family. I was with Norman for 18 years and those were very happy times. I loved him, he loved me and I still treasure his memory. All I wanted was for the court to recognise that I needed to have his share of the house that was our home to provide me with some security for my future and this judgment has done just that. I believe that that is what Norman would have wanted for me. The judge’s decision means I can now stay in my home and my future is much more secure as I have the freedom to sell the property in the future when I need to. What has been traumatic for me is that this level of serious relationship is not currently recognised by the law and I therefore had to bring this claim in court to achieve some security and to obtain this result. I hope my situation raises awareness for others to consider their own financial position in relation to their partner and consider whether they need to take advice to protect each other in future.”

This case highlights a number of factors, the most important of which to bear in mind is the potential for conflict and additional heartache should the inevitable happen when a person’s affairs are not in order. If you have any doubt about your own affairs #TalkToTollers

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