EWHC 688 (Ch)
Barrister: Alex Troup
Area of Law: Wills, Trusts and Tax
Summary: Head of our Wills and Trusts team, Alex Troup, instructed by Vlad Macdonald-Munteanu of Hugh James successfully represented Mrs Thompson in the recent High Court case of Thompson v Raggett  EWHC 688 (Ch).
Mrs Thompson brought a claim for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 against the estate of her late partner and cohabitee, Mr Hodge, whose will left his whole estate, valued at over £1,5 million, to his tenants. The estate mainly consisted of a caravan park and farm in West Wales.
The High Court granted Mrs Thompson an outright transfer of a cottage, valued at £225,000, which Mr Hodge had purchased specifically for him and Mrs Thompson to live in during their retirement. Mrs Thompson was also granted a lump sum of £160,000 for her future maintenance and care, plus a further £28,845 to renovate the property and facilitate her moving in.
In his letter of wishes accompanying his last will, Mr Hodge claimed that Mrs Thompson had substantial sums and finances to provide for herself, but the court accepted that Mrs Thompson was in fact financially dependent upon him. Given their 42 years of cohabitation and the unpaid work she carried out on the caravan park and farm, coupled with her financial dependency, she was awarded approximately 33% of the net estate.
The Court’s decision to grant Mrs Thompson an outright interest in the cottage is significant given that in Ilott v The Blue Cross  2 WLR 979 the Supreme Court indicated that if housing is provided by way of maintenance it is likely more often to be provided by way of life interest.
The key drivers behind the Judge’s decision to grant an absolute interest in the cottage were (a) the long period of cohabitation, (b) the cottage had been bought specifically to provide Mrs Thompson with a home, (c) the beneficiaries under the will had adopted Mr Hodge’s aversion to Mrs Thompson’s son (who would be caring for her) receiving anything, and (d) an outright interest would allow Mrs Thompson to make the necessary alterations to the cottage without having to seek permission.