Disabled cohabitant awarded a life interest in alternative accommodation

Posted on September 12, 2018

Andrew Banfield has been awarded a life interest in half the proceeds of the sale of his deceased cohabitant’s house, to be spent on alternative accommodation for him to reside in.

At the date the late Sarah Campbell died, she was cohabiting with Mr Banfield. He had moved in with her some years after the death of her husband in 1992. However, Mrs Campbell’s son disputed the date of commencement of the cohabitation.

There was some evidence that the couple had regarded themselves as engaged, though the Court heard that they did not share a bed in the final years before her death.

Mrs Campbell died in 2015, bequeathing the majority of her Estate to her only child. Her Will left a legacy of £5,000 to Mr Banfield and described him as her ‘friend’.

At the time of Mrs Campbell’s death, Mr Banfield was 63 and partially disabled, with a net annual income of approximately £30,000. The house that the cohabitees had shared was to be inherited by Mrs Campbell’s son, who would have possibly sold the same, leaving Mr Banfield homeless.

Mr Banfield made a claim for reasonable provision from the Estate of the late Mrs Campbell under the 1975 Act. His claim was for £450,000, based on his housing needs: a ground floor maisonette with garden in the London suburb of Thames Ditton.

Mrs Campbell’s son argued that the claim was ‘excessive’ and that Mr Banfield could be provided with a suitable flat for £220,000.

The High Court cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in ‘Ilott v Blue Cross (2017 UKSC 17)’ that the sole purpose of the 1975 Act is to provide maintenance during the Claimant’s lifetime.

There were two special circumstances in this case:

  • Mrs Campbell had inherited the property from her late husband before the start of her relationship with Mr Banfield.
  • Mr Banfield’s housing requirements were relatively expensive (requiring 50% or more of the Estate).

It was more appropriate for the Court to make provision for housing by way of a ‘life interest’ to avoid conferring capital and depriving Mrs Campbell’s son.

The Court ordered that Mrs Campbell’s house be sold and a life interest in one half of the net proceeds of sale be granted to Mr Banfield, to be used towards purchasing alternative accommodation for him.

The Court also directed that a fund of £20,000 be kept available within the Estate in the event that the property purchased by Mr Banfield needs specific adaptation to meet his mobility needs.

If you would like advice about preserving your Estate for your intended Beneficiaries, with the aim of reducing the risk of costly and unnecessary disputes after death, please contact Gill Tobin or Emma Blakesley on 01702 443484.