People too often live together without taking into consideration what would happen if they passed away without making provision for their partner. People need to consider questions such as; who owns the property in which we live? Have I made a Will? Does that Will provide for my partner and those dependent on me?
It is an unfortunate reality that these questions are often left unanswered until the inevitable happens, at which point, it is for those left behind to deal with the fallout. Problems and disputes may arise in the event that a person dies with/without a Will, leaving his/her cohabiting partner to inherit little or nothing.
Where an individual has not benefited from a deceaseds estate or they consider that adequate provision has not been made for them, they can make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
A real life typical example
The claimant had cohabited with his partner (the deceased) for 20 years following the death of the deceaseds spouse. The claimant made a claim under the Inheritance Act as a cohabiting partner of the deceased on the basis that he had not received reasonable financial provision from the estate. The deceased had made a Will, which had left her residuary estate to be inherited by her only son, and a small sum of 5,000 to the claimant, referring to him as a friend.
What the Judge said
The judge awarded the claimant a life interest over half of the net proceeds of sale of the deceaseds home rather than provide a lump sum. Where the deceased and the claimant had no children together but there were children from an earlier relationship, a life interest rather than a lump sum was more likely to be appropriate to avoid capital passing to the claimants rather than the deceaseds family, on the claimants death.
In coming to this conclusion, the judge took into account that the deceased had indicated, in a letter of wishes, that she wanted her son to get the bulk of her estate. Further, where a claim involved 50% or more of estate capital, it was much more likely to be appropriate to make provision for housing for the claimant by way of a life interest.
It is important to note that all Inheritance Act claims are decided on their specific facts. It is essential that people obtain professional support and advice to ensure that they can try to combat these sorts of disputes before they arise in order to avoid the stress, risk and costs of litigation.
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