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Miss Thompson had lived with Wynford Hodge for 42 years. The couple had never married but had cohabited as a couple for this period. In previous Wills, Mr Hodge had made provision for Miss Thompson, but in his most recent Will, he left her out completely.
Mr Hodge left a letter of wishes with his Will explaining that one of the reasons that he had not made provision for Miss Thompson (or her children) was that he felt her children had previously taken advantage of him and had already taken money from him during his lifetime. He had lost contact with the children and there was clearly ill-feeling between them.
Miss Thompson made a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This Act allows claims against an estate by spouses, cohabitees, and person who were supported financially by the deceased. It was clear that Miss Thompson had been financially dependent on Mr Hodge. The farmhouse house had been her home for many years and her own financial resources were not substantial. Miss Thompson had moved into residential care, but was keen to return home to the farmhouse and also needed funds for some repair work on the property. If she and Mr Hodge had been married, Miss Thompson would have had a claim equivalent to a Wife’s on divorce. However, as a cohabitee she was entitled only to “reasonable provision for her maintenance”.
The court, having considered the previous Wills and the circumstances, deemed it right that Miss Thompson was entitled to reasonable financial provision from the estate. Although the quality of Miss Thompson’s relationship with Mr Hodge was relevant, Mr Hodge’s difficult relationship with her children did not affect this. The Judge decided to award Miss Thompson the right to reside in the farmhouse for the rest of her life and a lump sum of £160,000.
At Myerson, we can advise you on potential claims against your estate at the time of drafting your Will, and discuss the best Will structure to use for your circumstances. Our Dispute Resolution team regularly advises on claims made against an estate and the likelihood of success of such claims.