08 June 2016
The Dangers of Not Having an Appropriate Will
The recent case involving Joy Williams and her deceased partner Norman Martin’s family show how dangerous it is to jointly own property with another (such as a life partner), even if the ownership is appropriately structured as a tenancy in common, if you do not also have an appropriate Will in place.
Mr Martin and Ms Williams had met and had become a couple and had purchased a house together which was held as tenants in common between them. Mr Martin
had separated from but never divorced his wife. Mr Martin died (perhaps unexpectedly young), but without having made a Will.
Under the provisions of Intestacy, his share of the tenancy in common held property passed to his separated wife on an outright basis.
Ms Williams brought a claim under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for reasonable fi nancial provision under the heading that she and Mr Martin had lived together as man and wife for more than two years and she was fi nancially dependent on him.
The matter ended up being heard in a central London County Court where the claim brought by Ms Williams that her late partner’s half share of the house should pass to her was upheld. On at least one objective perspective this was a sad outcome for all concerned. This is because there will be a signifi cant impact re the burden of costs upon the losing party to the claim, being the separated widow of the deceased.
All of this could have been avoided had the deceased made the appropriate type of Will. What is appropriate for some in a similar situation as Mr Martin, will, to an extent, be driven by what the person making the Will feels is most appropriate for the competing claims upon their assets on the event of their death, but there are ways to try to satisfy the competing fi nancial needs of say a cohabiting partner and adult children from a previous relationship, even if the deceased’s adult children’s entitlement may be delayed until the death of their non- surviving parent’s co-habitant.