Anyone familiar with the intricacies of probate law was probably watching Joy Williams’ recent case for a half share in her deceased partner’s property with a rather sympathetic smirk stretching across their face. Little could they have known what the eventual outcome would be, especially when it turned out to be a ruling that was utterly unexpected by all.
Nevertheless, it would seem that Joy Williams, 69, has managed to achieve the impossible by securing a ruling in her case that many probate legal experts would say actually goes against the current law to quite a large extent. Ms Williams had been cohabiting with Norman Martin for some 18 years; however, the property was actually in the name of his estranged wife, to whom the estate went upon Mr Martin’s death back in 2012.
This effectively meant that Ms Williams would be made homeless by such an arbitrary ruling. Even though she contested that she had shared a loving home with Mr Martin for nearly two full decades, such are (or should we say were!) the laws regarding cohabitees that it looked almost certain Ms Williams was going to lose her home.
However, Judge Nigel Gerald finally found in Ms Williams’ interest, stating that it was a “fair and reasonable result” that Joy should retain “an absolute interest” in the property where they had both enjoyed a “loving and committed relationship” together.
For years prior to this case, many people were requesting a significant overhaul of the law when it comes to cohabiting couples. As with so many areas of the English legal system, the law as it currently stands does not address the sociological norms nowadays of cohabiting couples, which means that such couples will lose out in the event of their partner’s death if they have failed to take any necessary steps in drawing up legally binding agreements and/or full Wills.
In this modern age, we have to accept that there are a significant number of people in our society who do not believe in or wish to marry. Although civil ceremonies are available, there will always be strong religious connotations attached to marriage. We need to bear in mind that an anticipated majority of people living in this country today would classify themselves as having no religious beliefs whatsoever.
Many experts in probate law might argue that the ruling in Joy Williams’ case is a step in the right direction when it comes to overhauling the law regarding cohabiting couples. However, there is definitely still a long way to go before this part of our legal system actually matches the contemporary society in which we live. This all sounds far too familiar to us, and we are all inclined to let out an audible yawn as we contemplate the fact that, as with so much of modern English law, this really is the annoying way of things.
There is no denying that probate law can prove to be of great interest to a huge number of people. What’s more, it is always very handy indeed to have significant knowledge of this area of law under your belt. Not only will you be able to take better control of your own affairs in anticipation of your death; you will also be able to ensure your loved ones never lose out to an arbitrary ruling, which unfortunately, in this vital area of our legal system, is all too often around the corner.
This is where The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs’ Advanced Diploma in Wills, Probate and Administration really could prove to be just the ticket for you. Why not start making enquiries today to get the ball rolling? This could easily turn out to be one of the smartest things you do in your life!