What are the inheritance rights of a fiancé or cohabitee? Inheritance dispute lawyer, Naomi Ireson, represented Ms D in a claim against her late fiancé’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975; a case that has led to a new legal precedent being established.
The inheritance claim was made on the grounds that she had lived with the deceased as his wife for at least two years immediately before he died and that she was maintained by him.
Ms D and the deceased met 2 years and 2 months before he died. They had a whirlwind romance and decided to live with each other soon after meeting, sharing their time between each other’s homes. A year after meeting, the deceased proposed and they planned to marry the following year. Sadly, the deceased died unexpectedly a few months before their wedding.
Ms D and the deceased had discussed changing their Wills but decided to wait until after they married as any earlier Will could be automatically revoked by the marriage.
At the time of his death, the deceased was living with Ms D in her property and was providing her with an income which improved her standard of living. They were planning a trip of a lifetime to Australia following on from the imminent wedding. It was clear that if the deceased had any expectation of death, he would have taken steps to ensure Ms D was provided for.
The deceased’s Will left everything to his son. The net estate was £120,000.
The Inheritance Act claim was robustly defended by the deceased’s son who was the sole beneficiary of the estate. The deceased was a civil servant and upon his death his son also received a death in service payment in the region of £140,000. This sum passed to the son outside of the deceased’s estate.
We issued an unusual and complicated application under section 8 of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 asking the Court to order that the deceased’s death in service payment be treated as part of the net estate. We did so on the basis that if the death in service payment was treated as part of the estate, the net value of the estate for negotiations would have more than doubled. This was a unique point of law which had not previously been presented to an English Court.
Unfortunately, the Court deemed that the death in service benefit should not be treated as part of the net estate. However, once that issue had been resolved by the Court, the parties proceeded to mediation where Ms D was awarded one half of the estate.