For those of us involved in the world of wills and estates, we have had more than a little interest in the cautionary tale of a lady called Joy Williams in recent days, which could so easily happen here in the Wirral.
She had lived with her partner Norman Martin for 18 years without being married and has just won a hard-fought court battle to inherit a share of his estate. Mr Martin remained married to his wife.
Judges ruled she can make a claim against the estate of her former partner Mr Martin, who died four years ago, despite him never having actually divorced his wife.
Mr Martin shared a home with Joy Williams worth an estimated £320,000 in Dorset, but as tenants-in-common it meant when he passed away the property did not automatically pass to her. If they had owned the property as joint tenants it would have passed automatically to the survivor.
However, in the case which has received widespread attention, the judge explained that she was entitled to make a claim against the estate of Martin saying it was a “fair and reasonable result,” and she should now inherit half the value of the property.
The judge had said she should “retain an absolute interest” in the house where she and Martin had lived as husband and wife in a committed relationship.
Whilst this victory has brought to an end a difficult battle for Joy Williams, the wife of Mr Martin, Maureen Martin, 73, who separated from her husband way back in 1994, was ordered to pay £100,000 on account of costs within six weeks pending a detailed assessment.
We at QualitySolicitors believe the case shows the urgency for cohabitation laws to be modernised however this isn’t going to happen any time soon.
So the message is simple, those living together have to make sure they are legally protected. This is best done by seeing a solicitor to discuss matters and making up-to-date wills.
Despite it being 2016, there are many people who misguidedly believe in a common-law myth where someone has legal protection when their partner leaves or passes away, although this is not the case.
This tale, which has consumed the lives of two women for four years, highlights the importance of the consequences if a relationship fails in such circumstances.
Joy Williams herself said she hoped the case would highlight the inadequacy of current laws.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
We entirely agree with Joy Williams and we hope all those who have read this will ensure they protect themselves from becoming involved in such a situation.
It is easily avoidable and just takes a call to a good local solicitor who can soon put everyone’s mind at ease.