• Judge backs co-habitee over wife in landmark wills ruling
A woman who lived with her partner for nearly two decades has won a court battle for a share of his home after it passed to his estranged wife in the wake of his death.
Joy Williams, 69, lived with Norman Martin, a dentist, for 18 years but he remained married to Maureen Martin and had not updated his will.
They owned their three-bedroom home in Dorchester, Dorset, as tenants in common, which meant the property did not automatically pass to Williams after her partner’s death from a heart attack in 2012.
However, earlier this year in a victory for the rights of unmarried couples, Judge Nigel Gerald said it was “quite plain” that Williams and Norman Martin had in “all material respects” lived in the same household as husband and wife in a committed and loving relationship “in which they expected to spend the rest of their lives”.
The case was contested by Martin’s wife but Judge Gerald ruled in favour of Williams, saying that she had established that she was entitled to make a claim against the estate.
Irwin Mitchell, the law firm acting for Williams, said the case demonstrated the need for “co-habitation laws to be brought into the 21st century” and also highlighted the need for couples living together to have co-habitation agreements in place and up-to-date wills.
Paula Myers, a partner at the firm, said: “There is no such thing as a common law husband or wife and couples who live together do not automatically have the same rights as a married couple or those in a civil partnership.
Unmarried couples who live together should have co-habitation agreements in place outlining who owns property and how bills are divided. People should also ensure that their wills are up to date and reflect their wishes, particularly if their circumstances or relationships change.
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