Case law: Survivor of unmarried partners gets house outright after successfully challenging deceased’s Will
Individuals making a Will should consider who might be able to challenge it, and either include them in it or take steps to reduce the chance they’ll be successful, following yet another ‘reasonable financial provision’ ruling in which a house was transferred outright to a surviving unmarried partner.
This update was published in Legal Alert - May 2018
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Please note: A newer article on this case was published in the April 2019 edition of Legal Alert following subsequent developments in the legal process.
An unmarried couple had been together for 42 years. When one of them died, he left his estate of more than £1.5m to tenants and friends, and nothing to the surviving partner.
The law says family members and dependents of a deceased person can, in certain circumstances, contest a deceased’s Will on the basis that it does not make ‘reasonable financial provision’ for them. Spouses can usually make a claim based on the amount they might have received had they got divorced. Long-term partners can do the same, even though they were not actually married. The test of reasonableness is objective, to be decided by the court.
The surviving partner in this case made a claim, which was successful The court granted her a property worth £225k, which he had bought for them both to retire to, £28.8k to renovate it, and £160k for future maintenance and care costs.
The decision is notable because courts usually only grant surviving spouses and partners a life interest in properties – the right to live there until they die, when it goes back to the original beneficiaries.
However, the court in this case transferred the house to the surviving partner outright on grounds that their relationship had been particularly long, she had been financially dependent on him and she would otherwise have been reliant on the beneficiaries’ consent to renovate the house.
- Individuals making a Will should consider who might be able to challenge it if you leave them out, including whether they might be awarded an outright transfer of any land, and either include them in the Will or take steps to reduce the chance they’ll be successful.
Case ref: Thompson v Ragget & Ors (Rev 1)  EWHC 688
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