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(Chancery Division; HHJ Behrens; 13 January 2009)
The woman had lived with the man for 27 years; the couple had two children together. The man had, in addition, three children from a previous marriage. Both the man and the woman worked; the man earned over £44,000 net in salary, while the woman earned about £13,000 net. The man died suddenly, intestate; under the intestacy the estate was to be divided between his five children. The woman claimed a beneficial interest in the family home, which had been registered in the man's sole name, and also in shares vested in the man's sole name, which had been purchased using a mortgage on the family home. The estate accepted that the intestacy had not made reasonable provision for the woman; the estate had already paid the woman £148,500, and in addition was offering the woman a half interest in the family home, plus a life interest in the remaining share. By the date of the hearing the property was worth about £160,000, with a mortgage of just under £12,000. The wife had very little of the estate's payment left, having made mortgage payments, paid for some improvements to the home and generally used it to subsidise her income. Apart from the property, the estate was worth about £65,000 net. None of the children had provided any evidence of their financial circumstances.
In relation to the claim to a beneficial joint tenancy, the court was being asked to find for the woman largely on the basis of her uncorroborated evidence of events that had taken place over 20 years ago, in which the other party to the transaction was dead. It was impossible to impute to the man and woman a common intention that the property was to be held as beneficial joint tenants, or any common intention that the woman should have any interest in the shares. However, applying the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975, the intestacy did not make sufficient provision for the woman. The property was to be transferred to the woman outright; this was a case for a clean break, not least because of the woman's poor relationship with the three children by the husband's earlier marriage. Further, the estate was to pay the mortgage; with the mortgage paid the woman would be in a position substantially to fund her existing lifestyle; the man's death had left the woman about £15,000 a year worse off. The award reduced the capital available for distribution to the five children to about £10,000 each.
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