Under the family law and the rules of intestacy spouses, and civil partners including same-sex spouses and civil partners have wider rights to inheritance than a cohabitee. Aggrieved spouse or civil partner who has been left out of a Will or who is not inheriting on an intestacy can apply for a benefit from the estate of deceased after the death of his/her spouse and civil partner.
However, a cohabitee or cohabiting partner has no or very limited rights in the inheritance of his/her partner under the rules of intestacy and where such cohabiting partner has not left anything in a Will for cohabiting partner.
In a recent landmark case decided on 29 March 2018, the court has awarded a right to the distribution of the estate of deceased cohabitee. The pair was living together for nearly 42 years but never married or formed a civil partnership. They purchased the disputed property and estate with a view that the couple will retire to it.
However, upon the death, the deceased partner left the whole estate which was valued at £1.5 Million to his tenants and few friends. His cohabiting partner was left with nothing.
The family court awarded reasonable provision for the maintenance of the remaining partner, she was granted a property worth nearly quarter a million pounds, £160,000 for her future maintenance and care and approximately £28,00 to renovate the property.
This landmark judgment although contentious but nevertheless allows cohabitees who are left with nothing by their partner to secure financial provisions from the estate of the partner that reflects their contribution to the relationship, even though cohabitees have no legal rights to their partner’s estate.
The major factors considered by the courts were the length of their relationship, financial dependency on each other and rules of fairness and justice. It is likely that in future, the cohabiting couple may inherit a reasonable estate from their partner’s estate. It is worth noting that there is no automatic legal right as of now, however, this judgment may have paved a way for such right.
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