Our expert lawyers helped a widow claim her rightful inheritance at the Royal Courts of Justice after her partner’s Will left the whole of his estate to his estranged wife because it had not been updated.
Norman and Joy had been together for almost twenty years but had never married. When Norman died suddenly in 2012, Joy was devastated to find that he had never updated his Will, meaning his entire estate passed to his estranged wife Maureen.
Although Norman and Maureen had been separated for almost two decades, they had not divorced. Because Norman had failed to make a new Will, this meant that Maureen was still the only beneficiary of his estate.
Maureen inherited the large marital home by survivorship – she also received Norman’s pensions as his wife. Joy was left with nothing and since Maureen wouldn’t allow her to take Norman’s share of the property, she was unable to buy another house to move to instead. She had only a small pension left to live on and was having to continue with her part time job, even though she is now 70 years of age.
On the advice of her sister-in-law, Joy contacted Irwin Mitchell’s Wills, Trusts and Estates Disputes team. She was understandably distraught at the time and was uncertain and frightened about her future. We considered that Joy had a strong claim in legal terms and agreed to take on her case, supported by a conditional fee agreement.
Under the Inheritance Act of 1975 – which deals with provision for family and dependents – someone who has been living with the deceased for at least two years before their death can be entitled to bring a claim. As Joy and Norman had lived together for much longer than that, it was clear that she should be entitled to provision. Joy had been provided for and maintained by Norman throughout their relationship.
However, Maureen disputed this. Joy’s claim proceeded to trial at the Royal Courts of Justice, where we helped her present her case.
Joy’s claim was successful and the court agreed that there reasonable financial provision had not been provided for Joy and awarded her Norman’s share of the property that they had lived in together. Maureen was also ordered to pay Joy’s legal costs.
Paula Myers, the expert disputes solicitor who represented Joy, said: “It’s so important to make sure that your will is up to date – the effect can be devastating if not. Many people assume their loved ones will be provided for after their death, but the fact is nothing is certain unless the legal paperwork is in place.
“We’re very glad we were able to make sure Joy has the financial provision from Norman’s estate that she both needs and deserves – but we do urge everyone to make sure their will is in order. Otherwise your loved ones may be left facing difficult legal hurdles in a time when they are already grieving.”
Joy expressed her gratitude for the support her legal team provided for her throughout her case: “They have been incredibly patient and understanding – it can’t have been easy for them, dealing with a crying, frightened client who knew nothing at all about the legal system.”
“At that time I was desolate with grief. It became a personal journey for me and them because of the nature of my case. They have become my friends – I will never forget them and their support.”
To find out more about how to make sure your Will is up to date, visit our Wills & Estates page – or contact one of our experts today.
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