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Cohabitees - Are you and your partner protected?

A recent ruling at the central London county court highlighted the importance of people being fully aware of their financial positions in relation to their partners and consider what steps they should take to secure future financial provision for each other.

Norman Martin had separated from his wife Maureen Martin but the couple had never divorced. When he passed away suddenly in 2012 his share in the property he owned with his co-habitee, Ms Williams, passed to his estranged wife.

Mr Martin and Ms Williams had lived together in a committed relationship for 18 years and they owned their 3 bed home in Dorset as tenants in common. Owning a property as tenants in common means that when one owner dies their share does not automatically pass to the remaining owner but instead will pass according to the terms of the deceased’s Will if there is one or according to the laws of intestacy.

In this case, Mr Martin’s share in the property passed to his estranged wife. As such, Ms Williams had to make a claim against Mr Martin’s estate to secure financial provision for her future. The judge ruled in Ms William’s favour and she was awarded Mr Martin’s half share of the house to provide her with “some security for the future”

This case highlights the importance of people needing to be being aware of the following:

  • There is no such thing as “common law  husband or wife.
  • Couples who live together do not automatically have the same rights as a married couple or those in a civil partnership.
  • People living together should have cohabitation agreements in place and up-to-date Wills which reflect their wishes, particularly if their circumstances or relationships change.

For additional information on Co-habitation Agreements please contact our Family department or for additional information on making or updating your Will / Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common Agreements please contact our Wills and Probate department on 01905 721600.

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