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High Court rules Cohabitants entitled to challenge their late Partner's estate

View profile for Laura Pracy
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In the case of Thompson v Ragget (2018) EWHC 688 Ch, the High court ruled in favour of an unmarried woman who had been left out of her partner’s £1.5m estate.

The distribution of an estate, either under the terms of a Will or pursuant to the Intestacy Rules, may be contested by bringing a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (‘the Inheritance Act’) if the distribution of the deceased’s estate does not make reasonable financial provision for the claimant. The courts must take into consideration a number of statutory guidelines when considering the claim, including the size of the estate and the financial resources of the applicant.

Background to the case

Joan Thompson argued that she should be entitled to a share of her late partner, Wynford Hodge’s estate, which was valued for probate purposes at £1,535,060.  Mr Hodge’s last will had expressed his wishes to leave his substantial estate to tenants and friends at the exclusion of his partner Ms Thompson and her children despite the couple being together for 42 years.

The High Court stated in its ruling, that Ms Thompson was entitled to a share of the estate, despite Mr Hodge expressing in a letter of wishes that he felt Ms Thompson and her children had previously taken advantage of him, having already received monies from him.

The basis for the ruling relied on a combination of the length of the relationship, the fact that Mr Hodge had included Ms Thompson in previous versions of his will, as well as Ms Thompson’s financial reliance on Hodge. It was found that Ms Thompson’s income was not satisfactory to pay for the costs of renovating the home, despite Mr Hodge’s claims that Ms Thompson was “financially comfortable”.

The total value of the award to Ms Thompson was in the region of £413,000, which consisted of one of Mr Hodge’s properties, as well as funds to pay for Ms Thompson’s maintenance and care, and some funds to renovate the property.

How does this affect individuals who want to contest a Will or Inheritance?

This judgment provides reassurance to those who may not be married and may not be entitled to inherit from their partner’s estate, either because the will does not make provision for them or because the Intestacy Rules does make provision for unmarried couples.  

For individuals who may have been left out of a family member’s will, there are options available to seek entitlement to a portion of the estate, even in cases where an individual may not have specific statutory rights.

If you have been left out of a will, you may be entitled to a provision from the estate and should seek legal advice as soon as possible.

If you require advice on whether you may have a claim under the Inheritance Act you can contact Laura Pracy in our Inheritance and Will Disputes Department on 0161 785 3500.

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers LLP or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

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