Estranged Wife Risks Losing Her Home

A court case going through the Central London County Court has highlighted once again the difficulties cohabitees face when one partner dies and there is a dispute over their assets.

Although Joy Williams had lived with her partner, Norman Martin, for nearly two decades, Mr Martin had never divorced from his wife or updated his Will, so when he died in 2012 his share of the property and his assets went to his estranged wife. Ms Williams is now fighting to keep her home as she cannot buy out Mrs Martin’s share of the property.

Many people mistakenly believe that they are a ‘common-law’ wife or husband and are protected in law as if they were married. This is not the case and unmarried couples have few legal rights. Problems can arise when either a relationship breaks down or as in the case above, when one partner dies.

Issues such as this can be avoided by unmarried couples entering into a Cohabitation Agreement, a formal agreement that defines the financial relationship between each other. Couples should also prepare up to date Wills to ensure that their wishes are clearly set out. For more information on Cohabitation Agreements.

If you would like to speak about this issue or any family related situation, please contact Lisa Broddle or Mikayla Lettin at Stone Rowe Brewer, who will be able to answer any questions you may have. Please call 020 8891 6141 or e-mail the Family Team,