Judge overturns will after cohabitee leaves elderly partner with nothing

An elderly woman who was left with nothing after her millionaire partner excluded her from his will has won a High Court case.

The case highlights the importance of making a cohabitation agreement before the separation or death of a partner. Cohabitees have no immediate legal right to a partner’s wealth, and will often have to begin court proceedings, as shown today.

Joan Thompson cohabited with Wynford Hodge for more than 42 years before his death in 2017.

The pair were never married, but reports suggest that Ms Thompson was financially dependent on Mr Hodge for a number of decades.

Before his death, Mr Hodge said he did not want her or her children to inherit any of his wealth.

“I am Joan’s main carer and envisage she may have to go in to a [nursing] home following my death. I confirm Joan has her own finances and is financially comfortable. Joan has her own money and her own savings,” Mr Hodge had written in his will.

Mr Hodge left his £1.5 million fortune to the tenants of one of his properties instead.

However, the High Court heard how Ms Thompson was in fact left with little to no savings and was surviving off the state pension and disability allowance.

Judge Milwyn Jarman said Mr Hodge had failed to meet his responsibilities to his long-term partner and overturned the will.

“As Mr Hodge and Mrs Thompson grew older each had health issues which needed care and each relied on the other to provide care,” she said.

Ms Thompson was awarded a cottage in his estate worth around £225,000. She will also receive £190,000 to pay for the refurbishment of the cottage and to provide her with financial support.

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Alison Green
Alison joined Mackrell Turner Garrett in 1989 and qualified as a solicitor in 1991, becoming a partner in the firm in 2010. Her expertise covers matrimonial work, including divorce and the associated financial and children issues; pre and post-nuptial agreements; co-habitation disputes; civil partnership agreements and the breakdown of civil partnerships.