|Unexpected Victory for Cohabiting Partner in London Court|
On 16 February, cohabiting partner Joy Williams won a surprise victory in the Central London County Court with the decision that she could inherit her partner's share of the house they lived in and not his estranged wife.
Joy Williams and Norman Martin had lived together for 18 years, but Martin had failed to update his will to reflect his relationship with Williams during that time. With the law favouring his wife, Williams made a claim against Martin's estate, on the grounds that her security and future were in jeopardy.
'Contrary to popular belief, cohabiting does not give either partner automatic rights to each other's property, regardless of how many years they live together. If one partner dies, the other has no entitlement to inherit their estate, unless there is a will in place – even if they had children together,' said STEP's Technical Counsel Emily Deane TEP. The Commons Library has now also issued a briefing paper which provides general information about how the law applies to cohabitants, and about the Law Commission's proposals for reform.
In an arduous and exhausting four-hour ruling, Judge Nigel Gerald concluded that Williams was entitled to 'retain an absolute interest' in the house.
'This case emphasises the need for the forthcoming Cohabitation Rights Bill in England and Wales which is currently moving through parliament,' said Deane. 'If passed, it will offer basic protection to long-term cohabitees. Its objective is to help remedy situations where a partner from a broken down relationship is suffering financially.'
Williams was hugely relieved at the verdict, and said it was traumatic that a long-term cohabiting relationship is not recognised by the law. Mrs Martin, the estranged wife, was ordered to pay GBP100,000 costs and plans to appeal.
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Published on our website on Feb.19, 2016