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Calls for cohabitation laws to be updated

Martin Astle, Director and Solicitor in Astle Paterson’s Family department and Wills & Probate department discusses recent calls for cohabitation laws to be updated following a woman’s fight to keep her home when her partner died.

Mr Astle explained “Joy Williams and her partner, Norman Martin bought a home together where they lived for 18 years.  Whilst they were in a long term relationship, they never married.

Unfortunately, Mr Martin did not make a Will and when he died in 2012 his share of the home passed to his estranged wife from whom Mr Martin had never been divorced – rather than to Joy.

With her home under threat and with Norman’s estranged wife’s claiming a half share in the house, Joy was forced to issue Court proceedings against Norman’s estate at Court.

The case was contested by Norman’s estranged wife.   At Trial the Judge ruled in favour of Joy, and Ordered Mrs Martin to pay Joy’s legal costs associated with the Court Proceedings.

Whilst Joy was ultimately successful in her claim, Joy has described the situation as “traumatic”.”

Mr Astle concluded “Following this case there have been calls for reform of the law relating to cohabiting couples.

Many couples who live together believe that they have protected rights as “common law husband and wife” but this is not the case – “common law marriage” is simply a myth.

Joy was fortunate that the Judge in her case ruled she should receive Norman’s interest in their home, however, this decision does not guarantee somebody in similar circumstances will obtain the same result in the future.

The only way to truly protect your interests, and those of your partner, if you live together but are not married is to enter into a co-habitation agreement setting out the financial terms of you living together and to keep your Will up to date.”

Should you require advice in relation to the preparation of a co-habitation agreement or the preparation of a Will to protect  your partner’s and your interests for the future, please contact Mr Astle’s secretary, Lynda on 01283 531366 or by way of email to lgreen@astlepaterson.co.uk.  

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