Inheritance Act and Cohabitant Claimants
Cohabitation has been included in the society and has been amongst one of the fastest growing areas of family life. Right from 1996, it has been made possible for the cohabitants to claim against the estate of their deceased partner. The only condition is that they should have been living together in the same house for a period of at least two years immediately prior to death. There are a lot of couples who have taken the help of Family Mediation in who are being confused about the cohabitant claimants and the inheritance act. The main question lies around the fact that what will be the extent of the claim?
There is not one perfect answer to this question. The main problem lies in the fact that the court has to consider the future day to day needs of the cohabitant. This is referred as the Maintenance and according to what is there in the Inheritance Act of 1975, the courts have failed to establish a fixed definition which can be accepted universally. The way, in which the comparison has been done, the spouses in reference to the 1975 Act have claimed which appear to have a little more certainty as to what they can actually claim. As far as the award is concerned, the court might take into account that how much should a spouse receive depending on whether the marriage came to an end not by death but by divorce.
In such a situation, the principle of equality is followed and all the factors like the period of the marriage, raising the children of the deceased, inherited property and many others are taken care of by the court to decide a figure for the award. But then even this notion was forgotten after the Inheritance and Trustee Powers Act 2014 came into being. This means that the deaths occurred after 1 October 2014 has to be considered and the divorce crosscheck can have no upper or lower value. This turned them into something totally meaningless.
As with all the claims included in the 1975 Act, the result is solely dependent on the facts of the case and there is no difference in applying maintenance. This will require a close study of not only what are the needs of the cohabitant but what the expectations would have been if the relationship would not have ended by death. At the end, it means that whatever is suitable to the circumstances and that really convey some meaning so that one case which is present on the surface and has the similar facts might end up having a totally different outcome.
There was another case where similar results were established. In Negus v Bahouse (2008), the deceased and the one who was claiming, Ms Negus, has stayed alive for eight years. The deceased left a will which had a value summing up to 2.2 million. Although the money was received by Ms Negus from the estate, she still made a claim under Act 1975 against the son of the deceased who was found to be the principal beneficiary.