Cohabitees and Claims Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975
Section 1 of the Inheritance Act allows certain people to make an application to the court on the basis that a disposition of the deceased’s estate (under their will and/or the laws relating to intestacy) does not make a reasonable financial provision for them.
This section was amended by the Law Reform (Succession) Act 1995 and now provides individuals who cohabited with the deceased as their spouse (including, following the Civil Partnerships Act 2004, as part of a same sex relationship) with the ability to apply and seek an order from the court for a share (or an increased share) of the deceased’s estate under Section 2 of the Inheritance Act.
However, for such an individual to have standing to make an application, their cohabitation with the deceased must have complied with Section 1(1A) of the Inheritance Act. This requires that the individual: a) lived in the same household as the deceased; and b) as the husband or wife of the deceased; for c) the whole of the period of two years immediately before the date when the deceased died.
Kaur v Dhaliwal
Miss Kaur and Mr Dhaliwal had become engaged in June 2005. They lived together in a flat for 3 months from June 2006 until September 2006. However, in September 2006 Mr Dhaliwal‘s son moved back home to live with Mr Dhaliwal, and, due to the son’s disapproval of their relationship, Miss Kaur agreed to move out of the flat. Miss Kaur and Mr Dhaliwal then lived together inanother flat for 1 year and 49 weeks from July 2007 until Mr Dhaliwal’s death in June 2009.
The focus of the appeal in Kaur v Dhaliwal was to determine whether Miss Kaur had lived in the same household as Mr Dhaliwal and as Mr Dhaliwal’s wife for the two years preceding Mr Dhaliwal’s death and was therefore entitled to bring a claim.
The parties agreed that for 1 year and 49 weeks prior to Mr Dhaliwal’s death Miss Kaur had lived in the same household as Mr Dhaliwal and as Mr Dhaliwal’s wife. However, the defendants contended that Miss Kaur could not establish this for the 3 weeks prior to July 2007 (i.e. during the period where Miss Kaur and Mr Dhaliwal had been living in separate houses), and as the established period fell short of the requisite two years Miss Kaur was ineligible to bring a claim under Section 1(1A) of the Inheritance Act.
Appeal to the High Court
The High Court upheld the County Court’s decision that Miss Kaur had lived in the same household as Mr Dhaliwal and as Mr Dhaliwal’s wife from June 2006 until Mr Dhaliwal’s death in June 2009 (which was almost 3 years) and was therefore eligible to bring a claim.
The High Court found the County Court to have correctly applied the principles arising from the Court of Appeal’s decision in Gully v Dix. The Court of Appeal had held that, as the word was “household” and not “house”, it was not necessarily determinate that a couple were living apart, and that such individuals would still be a part of the same household if they were tied together by their relationship.
The County Court looked at the nature of the relationship between Miss Kaur and Mr Dhaliwal and noted they had only lived in separate properties due to Mr Dhaliwal’s attempt to repair his relationship with his children, that they continued to work together in Mr Dhaliwal’s café, and that they remained engaged throughout. The High Court decided that the County Court was entitled to conclude that the relationship had continued in full measure from June 2006 until Mr Dhaliwal’s death and that Miss Kaur was therefore entitled to make an application.
The decision will assist those individuals who wish to bring a claim against an estate despite not having lived in the same property as the deceased for the last two years of the deceased’s life. This could include couples who have lived and worked in separate countries, young couples who have lived separately to save money with the goal of purchasing a home together, or elderly couples who have lived apart for health reasons.
Our team has considerable experience and practical knowledge in representing clients who are either bringing or defending claims made under the Inheritance Act 1975. For further information please contact Roger Peters or Anna Coakes.