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Couples Urged to Think About a Cohabitation Agreement

A woman who lived with a married man has won a court battle to inherit his half of the house they shared.

Joy Williams, aged 69, had lived with Norman Martin for over 18 years when he died of a heart attack in 2012. The couple owned a house together as tenants in common, and this property is valued at £320,000.

Although Mr Martin lived with Ms Williams, he remained married to his wife. This meant that when he died, his share of the house passed to his wife. There was no cohabitation agreement in place, and Mr Martin’s will had not been updated.
Ms Williams took her case to court to make a claim on her deceased partner’s estate.

The judge acknowledged the “loving and committed” relationship the couple shared and ruled that Ms Williams should be able to inherit Mr Martin’s share of the house. Mr Martin’s widow was ordered to pay £100,000 in legal fees within 42 days. Her lawyer described the costs as “eye-watering” and said that his client could not afford this.

After leaving the court, Ms Williams said: “All I wanted was for the court to recognise that I needed to have his share of the house that was our home to provide me with some security for my future and this judgment has done just that.
“I hope my situation raises awareness for others to consider their own financial position in relation to their partner and consider whether they need to take advice to protect their each other in future.”

Ms Williams’ lawyers criticised the lack of legal protections for cohabitants and said, “This case highlights the need for co-habitation laws to be brought into the 21st century."

Cohabitation Agreements

This case has highlighted many of the reasons why couples who live together should create a cohabitation agreement. More and more people are living together without getting married, and many people believe that this will create a common law marriage. This is not the case, and unmarried cohabitants should take steps to protect their interests. A cohabitation agreement is a legally enforceable contract between both partners that identifies who what will happen to property and financial matters such as the mortgage, debts and savings if the couple separates in the future.

It is also advisable to write a will to express what you want to happen to your property after you die. If you have a will already, you should make sure that it is up to date and reflects any changes that may have occurred in your circumstances.

Although cohabitants have some rights, going to court to make a claim on a deceased partner’s estate or going to court to resolve a separation dispute can be extremely expensive and can add further stresses to an already difficult time.
A will and cohabitation agreement can help you avoid this and gain legal protections as a cohabitant.

Cohabitation Lawyers Liverpool

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