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Elderly woman wins claim on her partner’s estate

A woman who received nothing in the will left by her partner of four decades has won a High Court case.

Joan Thompson, 79, lived with the late Wynford Hodge for less than 42 years, but his will allocated his entire £1.5 million fortune to the tenants of one his properties. In the document, he claimed that  he did not trust Mrs Thompson’s children and did not think she would be able to live independently after his death due to her poor health. He insisted:

“I am Joan’s main carer and envisage she may have to go in to a [nursing] home following my death. I confirm Joan has her own finances and is financially comfortable. Joan has her own money and her own savings.”

However, Joan had been financially dependent on him during their decades together, and in fact only had meagre savings. She was therefore left in straitened circumstances, reliant on a state pension and disability benefits. After moving into a nursing home, she launched a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

In the Chancery Division of the High Court, His Honour Judge Jarman QC explained:

“As Mr Hodge and Mrs Thompson grew older each had health issues which needed care and each relied on the other to provide care. Mrs Thompson had a serious stroke about 12 years ago and has had heart attacks since. She accepts that in the last few years that she needed more care than he did. However, she helped him whenever she could, for example by helping him dress, wash and shave after a hip replacement some years ago.”

The Judge described the various ailments the couple had suffered from in the final years of Mr Hodge’s life, before explaining:

“In December [2016] he was admitted to hospital. During Mrs Thompson’s visits he told her not to worry as she would be well looked after. It was not long after discharge that he was admitted again for a burst cyst which led to his death.”

At the time of his passing, Mr Hodge was in his 90s.

Counsel for the tenants who had been made beneficiaries of the will eventually conceded that the will had in fact not made reasonable provision for Mrs Thompson. Judge Jarman said she should be given one of her late partner’s properties – a cottage that had originally been bought with a view to retirement – along with £28,845 for renovation. She also received £160,000 for maintenance and care costs.

Read the ruling in full here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Andy says:

    This shows how or what you think in relation to your estate and advised to secure your matters seems immaterial according to the law..
    So the moral of the story is,spend it and leave nothing…so nothing can be shared…simple…
    This just shows how a 42 year partnership all comes down to how much the other partner will get..

  2. Andrew says:

    Leaving her nothing was unfair; but setting aside my belief that the Act should not apply to cohabitees at all – I fear that that train has left the station – it was wrong to give her a property outright and money to renovate it. It should have been a right to live there terminating on death or on ceasing to live there e.g. by going into residential care.

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