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Will the latest inheritance pay out present law changes for unmarried spouses?

Two sisters have been ordered to pay their late father’s girlfriend almost a third of their inheritance payment, after she was deemed “a wife in all but name.” This is the latest story to cause families to reflect carefully on their particular circumstances and to take steps to protect the family and avoid emotional stress as well as avoiding large legal costs.

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The term “common law” has largely been introduced to capture any couples who are not married, but may have equal responsibilities in law, such as property or children. However, in most cases, where partners are unmarried, there is little to protect the other in the event of a split, or even death.  But there are instances where protection is given.

In the latest case of sisters, Ms Redmond and Ms Leberknight, daughters of the late James Redmond, the courts ordered in favour of Mr Redmond’s partner, Carole Taylor, that she should be entitled to a share of his estate – despite his will stating his daughters as his only beneficiaries.

Redmond met Taylor at an evening dance class and shortly after she moved into his home in 2007. She later cared for him during his long battle with prostate cancer before he passed away in 2014. Redmond’s will was written 20 years prior to meeting Ms Taylor and stated that his daughters should inherit around £1million of his assets.

However, following his death, Taylor claims she is entitled to a share in his estate and that she cared for him as any wife would. Therefore, she should not be discredited just because she was unmarried to Mr Redmond at the time of his death.

The daughters’ reply was that she was not his only girlfriend and that their father had actually started to distance himself from Taylor at the end of the relationship.

The Judge’s reply was interesting. He said: “I am satisfied that Mr Redmond and Ms Taylor lived together as man and wife, and in particular that Ms Taylor lived with Mr Redmond as his wife.”

His statement was supported in various documentation, where daughters described Ms Taylor as their “step mother” and what’s more, it was unlikely Mr Redmond asked Ms Taylor to move out during later stages of his cancer treatment. Not only because she provided him with the support of a loving partner, but that also, hospital records shows Mr Redmond describing Ms Taylor as his partner even in the later stages of life.

The Judge ruled that Mr Redmond clearly had an obligation and responsibility towards Ms Taylor as well as his daughters, and that in his will he should have made the appropriate financial provision for her. The Judge ordered the sisters pay £325,000 to Ms Taylor - £180,000 of which was to be invested in a property for Ms Taylor.

What this case demonstrates is that Mr Redmond should have updated his Will to make provision for Ms Taylor because in Mr Redmond and Ms Taylor’s relationship, the law recognises that Mr Redmond had a financial responsibility to provide for Ms Taylor.  Had he done so and even by informing his daughters in his lifetime that he is providing for Ms Taylor – not only several thousands of pounds could have been saved in legal fees but the emotional stress could also have been avoided.

It means that if you are “not the marrying type” – as was quoted about Mr Redmond in the court, you might find the law may fall in your favour. We wrote a story recently covering a similar topic

If you would like some advice relation to wills, property, cohabitation rights, or any other area of property or family law, get in touch with Down Solicitors to see how we can help.

Posted on 20/08/2018 by Mehboob Dharamsi

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