Cohabitee inheritance claim success
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. He died leaving a Will dated 21 March 1963 i.e. it pre-dated 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 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 £460,000 to around £800,000) and one of her children (RS) had been made bankrupt at the relevant time. We therefore had to ask the court to bring those 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.
Our client had originally 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 therefore decided to consult us and our specialist inheritance dispute lawyers quickly got to work under a no win, no fee agreement.
We immediately amended the court 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.
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.