Court of Appeal confirms cohabitant can buy deceased’s home from her estate

The England and Wales Court of Appeal has upheld a ruling allowing the former cohabitant of the late Audrey Blackwell to buy the home they had shared.

Mrs Blackwell’s cohabitant, 93-year-old Thomas Warner, lived with her for 20 years until her death in 2014, and is still living in the house at Twyning Green, Gloucestershire, which was in her name only. Although she left nothing to him in her Will, he made a claim on her estate for ‘reasonable provision’ under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. What he claimed was the right to buy, at full value, the home he had shared with her. He did not particularly want financial benefit from the claim, he said: he just did not want to move out.

The claim was opposed by Mrs Blackwell’s daughter, sole executor and heir, Lynn Lewis, who had already sought a court order to evict Mr Warner from the house. Mrs Lewis argued that his claim should be rejected because he is already well off, and has no need of support. Her counsel cited the recent UK Supreme Court case of Ilott v Blue Cross to suggest that persons not in need of financial support did not have a strong claim on an estate under the 1975 Act. However, the Court of Appeal disagreed with her interpretation of the ruling in Ilott v Blue Cross. Mr Warner, it declared, was being maintained by Mrs Blackwell up to her death, and he needed that maintenance to continue. The Will of the deceased did not make reasonable financial provision for Mr Warner’s maintenance after her death, and such provision was required to preserve the status quo for ‘a very old and infirm person who had been kept in a suitable house by the deceased for the nearly 20 years of their relationship’.

Lindsey Sharples is a solicitor in the private client team at Barker Gotelee, Solicitors in Ipswich.

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