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Posted 20 September 2018
by Martin Laver

Inheritance Act 1975 Claim by Co-Habitee

Bench in an autumnal setting

A co-habitee was successful in his claim against his late partner’s estate.

The Deceased, Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, died on 7 October 2015, leaving will dated 6 August 2001. The will left her “friend” Andrew Banfield, the sum of £5,000 and her only child, John Campbell, was to inherit the remainder of her estate.

Mr Banfield and the Deceased began their relationship in approximately 1993 and he moved in with her in about 2001. Mr Banfield and the Deceased did not share a bedroom due to Mr Banfield’s health difficulties for the latter part of their relationship; an issue that Mr Campbell sought to rely on as evidence that they were no longer a couple, but merely housemates.

The Court heard evidence that Mr Banfield and the Deceased struck up their relationship a couple of years after the Deceased’s husband died and that between 1993 and 2001, although Mr Banfield still lived with his mother (to help care for her), he began staying at the Deceased’s home 2 to 3 nights per week. The court was satisfied that by 2001, the Deceased’s friends and family perceived Mr Banfield as having moved in with the Deceased permanently. By 2008, Mr Banfield’s mother had increased care needs and he stayed with his mother several days and nights per week, but did not move out of the Deceased’s home. Mr Banfield’s mother died in 2010. Also during this time, Mr Banfield experienced a number of health problems and had surgery on his foot, which required the Deceased to assist in his care.

It was acknowledged that Mr Banfield could be demanding, and the Deceased would often complain about Mr Banfield to her friends, stating that he wanted to be waited on hand and foot. However, the Deceased admitted to her friends that she did not want to end the relationship as she did not want to be alone. The court also heard evidence, despite Mr Campbell’s protestations, that the Deceased and Mr Banfield were engaged; evidence which the court accepted.

Mr Banfield and the Deceased went on holiday together to the Canary Islands on 7 October 2015 but sadly, the Deceased was taken ill during the flight and died.

This case is unusual in that Mr Banfield had capital of his own of approximately £277,000 (but his main income was from Disability Living Allowance). Despite this, Mr Banfield made his claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for his reasonable maintenance.

In considering the obligations and responsibilities owed by the Deceased to Mr Banfield, the court was required to look at all the circumstances of the case, specifically the length of the relationship between the Deceased and Mr Banfield, Mr Banfield’s needs and resources as well as his age, together with the size of the estate, which was for probate purposes approximately £700,000.

The court considered that the length of the relationship between the Deceased and Mr Banfield ought to be recognised as a more generous provision for maintenance and, that a £5,000 gift left to Mr Banfield under the Deceased’s will was not sufficient as to make a reasonable financial provision for his maintenance. Although Mr Banfield had sufficient capital income and capital to enable him to rent or purchase a home, the court did not think his accommodation needs would be met through the private rental market or retirement property. The fact that Mr Banfield was eligible to purchase a retirement property did not mean he should be required to do so. The court thought it reasonable for Mr Banfield to want to remain in the local area where he shared a home with the Deceased or within a mile or so of it. However, the court disagreed that Mr Banfield’s claimed housing needs of £350,000 to £450,000 were reasonable as that would involve Mr Banfield receiving more than half of the capital of the estate.

As conferring capital is not the purpose of an award of maintenance under the 1975 Act, the court stated in the Ilott v Mitsondecision that if housing is to be provided by way of maintenance, “it is likely more often than not” to be provided by way of a life interest rather than by capital sum.

The court therefore concluded:

..that 3 Westville Road be sold under the direction of the court and that Mr Banfield be granted a life interest in one half of the net proceeds of sale which are to be used in or towards providing alternative accommodation for him. It will be open to Mr Banfield if he wishes to contribute capital of his own towards the purchase in which case it will need to be agreed and declared in what proportions as between him and the state or the Defendant the property is owned.

The Court further ordered that £20,000 shall be kept available within the estate in case the property purchased needs specific adaptation to meet Mr Banfield’s needs.

Martin Laver, Solicitor & Partner at Tozers, and a member of the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists highlights the point that “this case is a further example of the Court willing to provide more than the absolute bare minimum that the Claimant might require from the deceased’s estate. The case also highlights the Court’s trend to move away from ordering the outright transfer of property to a Claimant in favour of awarding a life interest in assets.”

For further information and advice, please contact our team of Wealth Management solicitors for more information.

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About the author

Martin Laver

Partner and Solicitor

Partner in the commercial litigation team specialising in disputed trusts and Wills