A woman whose partner of 18 years died in 2012 has won a share of his home, despite the fact that they never married.
Joy Williams lived with former dentist Norman Martin in Dorchester, Devon, for close to two decades, but he remained legally married to his estranged wife Maureen throughout that time.
When Mr Martin died of a heart attack at the age of 69, Joy had no automatic entitlement to her partner’s share of the home because they had held it as ‘tenants in common’. Such arrangements are similar to joint tenancies but if one tenant dies the other does not inherit.
In addition, Mr Martin had not updated his will. When Ms Williams realised that her former partner’s share in the property was to go to his estranged wife and that she planned to sell this, the 69 year-old launched legal proceedings, fearing she could become homeless.
And earlier this week, Judge Nigel Gerald, in a lengthy judgement, ruled that she did indeed have a claim on her partner’s property because she and her partner had lived there in a “loving and committed relationship”. It was therefore “fair and reasonable” that she retain an “absolute interest in” (complete ownership of) the property.
Speaking after the ruling, Ms Williams said she felt “relieved and delighted”, saying the case had taken “a huge toll”.
“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.”
Discovering that cohabiting relationships are not recognised in law had been “traumatic”, she continued.
“… I therefore had to bring this claim in court to achieve some security and to obtain this result.”
She urged other cohabitees to learn from her experiences and “consider their own financial position in relation to their partner”.
Maureen Martin meanwhile has been ordered to pay a substantial costs bill. Her daughter said she intended to appeal the ruling.