Why its important to sort your paperwork when you divorce or separate
It has been reported today that a bereaved cohabitee in Dorset, Ms Williams, is at risk of losing the property that has been her home for 18 years. Her partner, Mr Martin, who died in 2012, was still married to his estranged wife and had not updated his will. In this situation, his half of the home he shared with his partner will pass to his estranged wife. Ms Williams has launched a court application asking the court to award her Mr Martin's share of the property.
There are two ways in which this could have been avoided. Firstly, if Mr Martin had obtained a divorce (and financial order!) at the time he separated from his wife, she is unlikely to have benefited on his death. My colleague, Karen Maloney, commented on the myth of the common law spouse and this is another example of a common misconception. There is scope for the law in this area to be changed, but this is not yet forthcoming. Mr Martin and Ms Williams would have been well advised to consider a cohabitation agreement too.
Secondly, if Mr Martin had made a will, it is likely that he would have been able to leave his share of the property to Ms Williams. My colleague, Abbey Adams, commented on this in the context of marriage but it is equally important on divorce or separation!
If you have any questions or concerns, my colleagues and I would be happy to assist.