A sharp rise in inheritance disputes is likely to be another unhappy legacy of coronavirus. If you lose your partner, what rights do you have?

Case example

Sarah meets Ben, a wealthy businessman. Ben invites Sarah to move in with him and the couple enjoy a high standard of living: expensive holidays, sailing on Ben's yacht and purchasing fine art together. They are happy for over a decade until Ben dies unexpectedly.

Ben's Will leaves Sarah a fraction of his overall wealth. Ben's adult children (from a former relationship) inherit the bulk of his multi-million estate. Sarah has no income and cannot afford to pay the bills in their large house nor can she afford their old lifestyle - Ben used to cover all this.

What can Sarah claim?

Some cohabitees, like Sarah and Ben, who have lived together for at least two years can make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. To succeed, Sarah must demonstrate that Ben has failed to provide sufficiently for her in his Will.

The court will take several factors into account including Sarah's own financial position and the size of Ben's estate, as well as the standard of lifestyle enjoyed by the couple. So the cost of Ben and Sarah's expensive holidays and other leisure pursuits will be relevant, amongst other factors, in deciding Sarah's claim.

Expert legal advice

Made in 1975, the Act is out-of-step with modern relationships, and strict time limits apply in these claims, so expert advice is needed to achieve the best outcomes.

Our contentious probate specialists advise both spouses/civil partners and cohabitees in these claims and also family members, as defendants.

  • Megan Seabourne is a partner at award-winning law firm VWV, which has offices in Clarendon Road, Watford