Bereaved woman takes partner’s estranged wife to court over house

A woman has been awarded a share in a property after her deceased partner failed to update his will in the eighteen years they lived together.

Joy Williams, 69, had lived with her partner Norman Martin until his 2012 heart attack in the propertthy ey had owned as tenants in common since 2009.

As Mr Martin had failed to either update his will or divorce his former partner, his share of the £320,000 Dorset property passed to his estranged wife, 73 year old Maureen Martin.

Ms Williams wanted the remaining share of the property in order to grant her some financial security as she had had no means of support since her partner, a dentist, had died. At a hearing on Tuesday 16th February, Judge Nigel Gerald ruled in her favour.

Speaking after the hearing, Ms Williams said: “I am relieved and delighted that this case is finally over because it has taken a huge toll on me and my family. I was with Norman for 18 years and those were very happy times. I loved him, he loved me and I still treasure his memory.

“All I wanted was for the Court to recognise that I needed to have his share of the house that was our home to provide me with some security for my future and this judgement has done just that. I believe that that is what Norman would have wanted for me. The judge’s decision means I can now stay in my home and my future is much more secure as I have the freedom to sell the property in the future when I need to.

“What has been traumatic for me is that this level of serious relationship is not currently recognised by the law and I therefore had to bring this claim in court to achieve some security and to obtain this result. I hope my situation raises awareness for others to consider their own financial position in relation to their partner and consider whether they need to take advice to protect their each other in future.”

Mrs Martin had argued that her and her husband had had a “complicated” relationship for the last eighteen years of his life. Mr and Mrs Martin’s daughter Louise described her mother as a “loyal, faithful wife.” The judge ordered the widowed Mrs Martin to pay costs of £100,000 within 42 days.

Paula Myers, National Head of Wills, Trust and Estates Dispute team at Irwin Mitchell, said: “This has been a long, hard and emotionally exhausting battle for Joy. She has had to deal with the loss of her partner and the threat of possibly losing her home. The case has been incredibly stressful for her and she is tremendously relieved that it is over.

“I am delighted that the judge has decided that Joy should own her partner’s share of the home they shared. This is the right judgement for our client who was placed in the intolerable position of having half her home being owned by her partner’s estranged wife and being unable to plan for her future or move on with her life.

“This case highlights the need for co-habitation laws to be brought into the 21st century. 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.”

Today's Wills and Probate