Miss Y was the partner of Z who had died intestate leaving only a brother who inherited the entire estate. As Miss Y and Z were unmarried, she received nothing.

Miss Y claimed financial provision pursuant to section 1(1)(b)(a) of the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 having lived in the same household as Z and having had a quasi matrimonial relationship with Z for 20 years. She also claimed under Section 1(e) as a person having been maintained by Z before his death.

Miss Y and Z had led an extremely frugal lifestyle and Z had for a large period of time, resided with Miss Y in her house, paying no rent. As a result Z had managed to accumulate a large estate. It was our client's position that this frugality was intended to allow Miss Y and Z to have comfortable retirement together. It was also our client's position that Z had always intended her to inherit his estate but due to a combination of his personality and his unexpected death this did not take place.

The brother initially challenged the relationship between Miss Y and Z which necessitated the taking of many witness statements setting out the length and nature of the relationship between Miss Y and Z.

The brother did eventually make offers to settle but based only on what he considered Miss Y's reasonable financial needs to be for the foreseeable future (taking a very conservative view), and taking no account of a length and nature of the couple's relationship or of Z's obligations towards Miss Y.

The matter resolved after mediation with Miss Y receiving approximately 54% of the net estate.

This matter highlights the problems that arise when unmarried couples do not make wills, a frequent occurrence bearing in mind the (incorrect) view that there is such a thing as a common law marriage.