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The importance of keeping your Will updated

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Dentist, Norman Martin, failed to divorce his estranged wife despite having lived with his new partner, Joy Williams, in Dorchester of 18 years. On his death there was no provision for Joy, as Martin had failed to update his will to reflect his relationship with her during that time.

As the property was held as joint tenants by Norman and his estranged wife, Mrs Martin. By law, Norman’s half share of his property therefore passed to Mrs Martin, and not to Joy.

This left Joy with no option but to make an application under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Joy had to establish that for at least two years before Norman’s death she lived in the same house with him as husband and wife or that immediately before his death she was being maintained wholly or partly by him.

Joy succeeded on her claim that reasonable provision should have been made for her and therefore the judge awarded Joy an absolute interest in the house. This judgement however, could be appealed by Mrs Martin and therefore Joy’s provision may not be final.

This case serves as a painful reminder that if you fail to update your Will to take account of your current circumstances, or if you live with someone without a Cohabitation Agreement there are real issues that can arise and expensive legal battles can flow. Cohabitation does not give partners any rights to each other’s property, no matter how long they have lived together.

"Until there is a change in the law, the only way to prevent this from happening to you is by updating your Will and also considering a Cohabitation Agreement," advises Wills & Tax Solicitor Malky Chaloner. 

Our Wills & Tax and Family Teams, based in Christchurch, also cover Bournemouth, Poole and the New Forest. For a free initial chat, please call 01202 499255 and Malky or a member of the Wills & Tax team will be happy to discuss any questions that you may have regarding your Will or ask to speak to Andrew Stynes for more information on cohabitation agreements.