The recent case of Thompson v Raggett has highlighted the risks of cutting a cohabitee out of your will. In this case Ms Thompson had lived with her partner, Mr Hodge, for over 40 years.
Over the years Mr Hodge had made several wills in which Ms Thompson was a beneficiary however in his last will , written only two months before he died, he decided to cut her out completely. Part of his reasoning was a dislike of her children and a wish that they would not inherit anything from him. He had also assumed that due to Ms Thompson’s health problems she would not be able to live independently after his death and did not need his money. Indeed she had been temporarily in a residential home at the time of his death however an occupational therapist had assessed her as being able to return home with adaptations and a care package.
The court held that under the Inheritance (provision for family and dependants) Act 1975 Ms Thompson could claim reasonable financial provision for her maintenance. She had been living as Mr Hodge’s wife at the time of his death and was financially dependent on him. The judge decided that Ms Thompson had a right to expect provision to be made for her and that this provision should not be hindered because of Mr Hodge’s dislike for her children.
Mr Hodge’s estate was valued at about £1,500000, consisting mainly of properties and land. The main beneficiaries of his will were tenants in one of his properties. Ms Thompson was awarded a property to live in, valued at £225000, £28,844 for adaptations to be made to the property for her, and £160,000 for her ongoing needs.
This case highlights the impact of the 1975 Act in limiting testamentary freedom to leave your estate to whoever you want and the protection available to those who were dependant on you.