Inheritance and cohabitees

The number of cohabitees in the UK is growing rapidly and the cohabiting couple family is the fastest growing family type in the UK. However, the law has not caught up and contrary to popular belief, cohabitees do not have the same rights as married couples either on the breakdown of a relationship or on death. There is currently a campaign for a change in the law to provide cohabitees with more legal rights.

A recent case in the High Court has awarded a cohabitant a share of her partner’s estate. Joan Thompson and Wynford Hodge had been in a relationship for 42 years but on his death, he left his entire estate of just over £1.5million to tenants and friends. Although she had no automatic right to a share of his estate as his cohabitee, Ms Thompson pursued a claim for reasonable financial provision as his dependant under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The court decided that Ms Thompson should be given one of Mr Hodge’s properties worth £225,000 which had been purchased with a view to the parties retiring to it. She was also granted £160,000 for her future maintenance and care and £28,845 to renovate the property. This is noteworthy as previously, a life interest in a property rather than an outright transfer might have been awarded.

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