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Partner can keep married partner’s home

A woman has won her legal battle to keep the home she shared with her partner despite opposition from his estranged wife.

The court heard that Joy Williams and her partner Norman Martin had owned their home as tenants in common for 18 years. Mr Martin had separated from his wife but they had not divorced. He had not updated his will to leave his share of the property to Ms Williams.

He died of a heart attack in 2012. As the couple lived in their home as tenants in common, his share automatically passed to his wife.

Ms Williams took legal action to assert her right to the property. Mr Martin’s wife, opposed the move, claiming that she and her husband had not been estranged.

The court ruled in favour of Ms Williams. It held that it was quite plain that she and Mr Martin had lived together effectively as husband and wife, and were in a committed relationship “in which they expected to spend the rest of their lives”.

It was fair and reasonable, therefore, that she should retain an absolute interest in the home they had shared.

Speaking to the BBC afterwards, Ms Williams said: “What has been traumatic for me is that this level of serious relationship is not currently recognised by the law and I therefore had to bring this claim in court to achieve some security and to obtain this result.”

The case highlights that cohabitants have little protection under the law and can be vulnerable in situations like this or if the relationship breaks down. It is essential that couples make a will to ensure that their property goes to the people they choose and wish to protect.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article.

[2015] EWHC 1592 (Fam)
Williams and Martin
Judge Nigel Gerald
February 2016

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