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Inheritance Claims for Cohabitants

Family Law

Overview

In the case of Chekov v Fryer and another [2015], the Court dismissed an application by the defendant sons and executors of the will of Mr Fryer to strike out the claim brought against the estate by Mr Fryer’s former Wife, who was living with Mr Fryer at the date of his death.

The Court held that the former Wife of the deceased was able to bring a claim as a cohabitant under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Background – Chekov v Fryer

In this case, the Husband and Wife (Mr Fryer and Ms Chekov) married in 1970 and subsequently divorced in 1981.

Upon divorce, the parties secured a financial order which confirmed neither party would be entitled to claim against the estate of the other, unless they remarried one another. The parties did not remarry.

However, as Ms Chekov was living with Mr Fryer at the date of his death, she sought to claim for reasonable financial provision as a cohabitant. This is because Mr Fryer had left his entire estate to his two sons (the Defendants) from a previous marriage.

In view of the fact the financial order prevented the parties from bringing a claim under the Inheritance Act, Mr Fryer’s sons tried to strike out the claim. However, Ms Chekov argued that there were reasonable grounds for bringing the claim, as the order only prevented her bringing a claim as a former spouse and not as a cohabitant.

Deputy Master Matthews stated that if the wording of the Inheritance Act was literally interpreted, Ms Chekov would not be able to claim as a cohabitant. This is because this category only applies if the claimant is not a spouse/civil partner or former spouse/civil partner.

Therefore, Ms Chekov would not be able to claim as a cohabitant by virtue of her identity as a former spouse of the deceased. Ms Chekov could also not claim as a former spouse because of the financial provision order.

However, Deputy Master Matthews was persuaded that the wording of this section was to prevent a claimant from making a double claim, rather than no claim at all.

Therefore, Deputy Master Matthews concluded that a person cohabiting as a former spouse is capable of making a claim under the Inheritance Act as a cohabitant.

He concluded that it would be illogical to say that someone who has been married, then divorced and then cohabits cannot bring a claim as a cohabitant.

As such, the Judge stated that the claim could not be struck out, as there were reasonable grounds for bringing the claim.

Therefore, Mr Fryer’s son’s application was dismissed.

This case establishes that in the event of a financial order being made dismissing inheritance claims against a former spouse, it does not prevent either spouse seeking to apply under the inheritance act on the death of the other for financial provision out of their estate, in the event of the parties cohabiting with one another after the financial order has been made.

If you require assistance in respect of your matrimonial affairs, whether this is in respect of issues concerning a divorce, the related financial aspects or cohabitation disputes, please contact our offices on 01323 727321 to arrange an appointment.

Please note that the family department offer a free initial 30 minute interview to provide general advice and guidance in relation to your matter.
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Guy Brown
Guy Brown
Carolyn Richards
Carolyn Richards
Greg Saunders
Greg Saunders
Tina Ripley
Tina Ripley