Grandmother wins court battle to keep late partner’s share of their home

A woman who lived with her partner for 18 years has won a court battle for a share of his home after it passed to his estranged wife when he died.

Joy Williams, 69, lived with Norman Martin, a dentist, even though he remained married to Maureen Martin and had not updated his will.

The grandmother expressed her “relief and delight” after a judge at the Central London County Court ruled in her favour. But Mrs Martin’s daughter, Louise, said she planned to appeal.

Ms Williams owned the home in Dorchester, Dorset, with Norman Martin, but he never divorced his wife Maureen. The pair owned their three-bedroom home as tenants in common, which meant the property – now valued at around £320,000 – did not automatically pass to Ms Williams after her partner’s death of a heart attack aged 69 in 2012.

But at a recent hearing, Judge Nigel Gerald awarded her Mr Martin’s half share of the house.

Ms Williams was present in court on Tuesday as the judge explained, in a ruling lasting almost four hours, that she had established she was entitled to make a claim against the estate of Mr Martin.

Ruling in her favour, he said the “fair and reasonable result” was that she should “retain an absolute interest” in the house she and Mr Martin had shared in a “loving and committed” relationship.

After the ruling, 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 judgment 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.”

To succeed in her claim, Ms Williams had to establish that for two years up to his death she had lived in the same household as Mr Martin as his wife, or that immediately before his death she was being maintained “wholly or partly” by him.

This case highlights the need for couples living together to have cohabitation agreements in place and up-to-date wills. At Carter Lemon Camerons LLP our Family team can advise on Cohabitation Agreements and our Private Client team can advise you on your personal legal matters, such as the preparation of wills. We ensure that your financial affairs are dealt with in a tax-efficient manner, ensuring that family members are properly provided for.