Family law groups such as Resolution continue to stress that there is no such thing as ‘common law marriage’ in England and Wales and that ill-prepared cohabiting couples have very limited legal rights in the event of an unplanned break-up or an unexpected death. But a recent decision made by a High Court Judge in Cardiff suggests that sometimes, under very unusual circumstances, this is perhaps not always the case.
Millionaire landowner Mr Wynford Hodge cohabited with his partner, Ms Joan Thompson for 42 years before sadly passing away last year aged 94.
In his Will, Mr Hodge, who owned a large farm and a prominent caravan park in Wales, left nothing to Ms Thompson due to the belief that she would be ‘fine financially’ following his death, the High Court heard.
According to reports, Mr Hodge was worth approximately £1.4 million when he died, but did not wish for the “financially comfortable” Ms Thompson and her children to inherit his wealth.
Instead, he left his fortune to two tenants who had ‘been kind to him’ in his later years.
In light of his wishes, Ms Thompson was left in dire straits after her partner’s death, the High Court heard.
The 79-year-old had just £2,500 in savings and was soon “forced to live off benefits in a nursing home, despite desperately wanting to return to the family estate.”
Ms Thompson told the Court that her late partner, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer a few years before his death, had previously told her “not to worry” and that she “would be well looked after” when he passed away.
She added that she had spent many years acting as his main carer as his health deteriorated.
Despite this, Mr Hodge reportedly re-drafted his Will more than 10 times, eventually disinheriting her altogether in the final draft.
Examining the case, a High Court judge found that Mr Hodge had failed to adequately support his long-term partner – describing the wealthy businessman’s decision not to leave any money to her as “a mistake” in light of her modest personal savings.
In a surprise move, the Court overturned Mr Hodge’s Will, and awarded Ms Thompson a £225,000 cottage that she and Mr Hodge had previously shared together for many years.
Following the shock decision, Ms Thompson is now also due to receive an additional £190,000 in cash to pay for necessary refurbishments around the home and to help provide her with financial security.
MFG Solicitors’ family team advise on divorce, cohabitation and all other aspects of family law. For more information about how we could help you, please contact us.