As experts in wills and probate, and family law, we often come across difficult battles over estates.
These draining legal fights leave all parties exhausted, and can often lead to a lifetime of anger and acrimony.
The recent case of a lady living in Dorset called Joy Williams has caught our attention as similar cases could arise here in Staines.
She had lived with her partner for 18 years without being married, and after a four year legal wrangle, has just won the right to inherit some of his estate.
Judges ruled she can make a claim against the estate of her partner, Norman Martin, who died in 2012, despite him never having actually divorced his wife, who he separated from in 1994.
Mr Martin a dentist, shared a home with Joy Williams, worth an estimated £320,000 in Dorset, but as tenants-in-common it meant when he died the property did not automatically pass to her.
However, in this case, the Judge ruled that she was entitled to make a claim against the estate of her ex-partner saying it was a “fair and reasonable result, and she should now inherit half the value of the property.”
It was right that she should retain interest in the home where she and Martin had lived in a “committed relationship”.
This case highlights the need for cohabitation laws to be altered to take into account the increasing number of couples who choose to live together rather than get married.
However, despite calls for updating cohabitation laws, until this happens people in similar situations should protect themselves by getting legal advice from a solicitor about a cohabitation agreement and ensuring both parties have up to date wills.
There is no such thing as common-law rights.
Joy Williams, after her victory, said she hoped the case would highlight the holes in current laws.
“I hope my situation raises awareness for others to look at their own financial position in relation to their partner and consider whether they need to protect each other in future,” she said.
For anyone reading this, who may be in a similar position as Joy Williams, remember it just takes a call to an experienced Wills and Probate solicitor, and Family solicitor to prevent such problems arising.
If you need advice, please contact us at Dale and Newbery in Staines on 01784 464 491.