Unmarried cohabitee wins Inheritance Act claim

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Unmarried cohabitee wins Inheritance Act claim and recovers £160,000 from her late partner’s estate.

We specialise in inheritance claims involving unmarried couples. There is a common misconception that unmarried cohabitees are unable to make an Inheritance Act claim. But as this case study of a successful case makes clear, unmarried cohabitees are fully entitled to make such a claim.

Our client had been the long term partner of Mr S since the 1970s and they had six children together. Mr S had previously had six children with his ex-wife, who he divorced in 1977.

Mr S died leaving a Will dated 21 March 1963 i.e. pre-dating his divorce. The divorce invalidated the gifts in the Will to his ex-wife so the estate passed in equal shares to the 11 children who survived him at the date of his death. Our client therefore received nothing from the estate, despite being entirely financially dependant upon him.

She therefore pursued an inheritance claim under section 1(b a) of the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975. Her own children did not oppose the claim, but the six children from the deceased’s marriage did defend. The claim was complicated by the fact that a substantial gift had been made out of Mr S’s estate to his ex-wife during his lifetime (likely to increase the net estate from some £460,000 to around £800,000) and one of her children (RS) had been made bankrupt at the relevant time. As such it was necessary to pursue a claim under section 10 of the Inheritance Act to bring the assets back into the estate and to join the ex-wife to the court proceedings. The trustee in bankruptcy of RS also needed to be joined.

The client initially instructed another firm of solicitors to commence the court proceedings. However the witness statement they prepared contained a number of inaccuracies. They also failed to plead the correct section of the Act and failed to join RS’s trustee in bankruptcy to the proceedings.

The client decided to consult Slee Blackwell Solicitors following the withdrawal of legal aid. Our specialist inheritance dispute lawyers quickly got to work and recognising the strengths of the claim (despite the problems) we agreed to pursue the inheritance claim under a no win, no fee agreement.

We immediately amended the pleadings prior to service to include the trustee in bankruptcy and filed an amended witness statement clarifying the previous inaccuracies and adding further key evidence in support of her inheritance claim.

Mediation took place, resulting in an excellent out of court settlement for our client whereby she received £160,000, plus payment of her legal costs.

To assist the client we agreed to reduce our success fee so that she would be able to keep her award without any deductions.

This case illustrates the importance of instructing solicitors who are specialist in inheritance dispute claims to ensure that you maximise the value of your claim and minimise the costs of pursuing it. It is also a good example of the importance of getting all parties to engage in mediation early to ensure that costs are minimised so far as possible.

If the issues raised in this case study ‘Unmarried cohabitee wins Inheritance Act claim’ are relevant to your own case and you are looking for an experienced inheritance lawyer then give us a call on 0808 139 1606 or email us at [email protected]