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Co-habitation and the dentist’s toothless inheritance!

Hayes Solicitors Limited > Legal Advice  > Co-habitation and the dentist’s toothless inheritance!

Co-habitation and the dentist’s toothless inheritance!

dentistry-316945_640Co-habitation and the dentist’s toothless inheritance!

Unmarried couples who live together often believe that they have an automatic right to inherit their partners’ estate. This is wrong and if you live with your partner you need to make a Will.

This was recently seen in a case which Ms Joy Williams brought against Mrs Maureen Martin.

Mrs Maureen Martin was married to a dentist called Norman Martin. They had two daughters together. However the marriage failed and Norman moved out of the matrimonial home but he never divorced Maureen. Maureen had the matrimonial home transferred into her name and she received the dental surgery, shop and cottage all worth around £600,000.

Norma followed his heart and he moved in with Joy Williams.


Joy and Norman bought a house together in Dorchester Dorset which they shared for nearly 20 years. The house was bought as tenants-in-common so that on Norman’s death it would pass either under the terms of his will or according to the laws of intestacy.

Norman died suddenly from a heart attack in June 2012 aged 69 years. Joy lost her “soulmate” and Maureen inherited Norman’s half of the house in Dorset.

Joy was not happy with the prospect of sharing half of her home with her late partner’s wife. Moreover the house in Dorset was only worth about £320,000 and if sold Joy would not have enough money to put a roof over her head.


So Joy issued a claim for “reasonable financial provision” under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975.

Maureen resisted Joy’s claim. The matter went to Court and Joy asked the Court to transfer to her Norman’s share in the Dorset house.

The Judge decided that it was only fair and reasonable for Joy to have an absolute interest in the Dorset house. He rejected Maureen’s claims and awarded legal costs of £100,000 to be paid by Maureen to Joy within 42 days.


Norman may have been a good dentist but he left it hard for his partner Joy to extract money from his estate.

This whole dispute could have been avoided if:-

  1. Norman had divorced Maureen and their property was divided by way of a divorce order.
  2. And if the Dorchester house had been bought as joint tenants when it would have passed to Joy by way of succession.
  3. Alternatively Norman could have simply made a will leaving his share in the Dorset house to Joy.


Instead legal costs of over £100,000 were incurred in a Court case and both joy and Maureen suffered the stress of litigation.

Couples, whether straight or gay, should make proper wills if they are not married or in a civil partnership.

Remember co-habiting couples have no automatic right of inheritance in English Law.

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