CATTLE V EVANS [2011] EWHC 945 (Ch)

 In Probate

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cattle v evans

There are relatively few reported ‘modest estate’ cases where the Court has had to decide a claim by a cohabitee of the deceased under the I(PFD)A 1975. Cattle v Evans, whilst only a first instance decision, provides a good working example of the Court’s likely approach in such a situation.

The facts

The deceased and the Claimant had been in a relationship for many years. They had become engaged but had never married. They had met in 1990 and started living together shortly afterwards. The deceased proposed marriage in 1993, bought her an engagement ring and they had a party with friends to celebrate. The relationship came to an end in 1997 but resumed in 1999. In 2004 they purchased a property jointly together in Spain and contributed broadly equally to the purchase and renovation costs. They went to live at that property together until the deceased began to have ‘itchy feet’. They sold the property in Spain in 2008 and the proceeds were divided equally between them. The deceased then purchased a property in the UK in his sole name and the Claimant, whilst she moved in with him, made no financial contribution to the purchase.

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At almost the same time as the parties returned to the UK, the deceased became unwell and he was diagnosed with lung cancer. In 2009 the deceased gave instructions for the preparation of a will leaving his new property to the Claimant with the residue of the estate passing to his two sons. The deceased’s health then declined rapidly and he died intestate in March 2009, not having executed the will.

The Claim

The Claimant sought a declaration that the UK property was held on a constructive trust by the deceased for them both jointly. She claimed that it had always been agreed that this property would be theirs and they would have an equal interest in it. Kitchin J. rejected that claim. He did not accept that there was ever an agreement, arrangement or understanding that she would hold any beneficial interest in it.

However, Kitchin J. found in favour of the claim under the I(PFD)A 1975. The parties had been in an 18 year relationship in total and had lived together for the last 5 years so that the Claimant fell within the provisions of section 1(1)(ba) of the Act. The estate comprised the UK property worth about £150,000 and cash and chattels worth about £70,000. The Claimant owned her own property worth about £110,000 but subject to a mortgage of £15,000. She rented the property out and received an income from it. She also owned a caravan which she had recently purchased for £29,000, cash of £2,000, and a loan of £20,000 which her son was likely to be able to repay in about two years’ time. The Claimant was 60 and her only source of income was the property rental and a small pension of about £400 pa. She would in due course receive her state pension.

The beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate were his two sons who had put forward no particular financial needs for the Court to consider.

The Claimant sought a transfer of the UK property and £35,000 of cash in satisfaction of her claim, i.e. the bulk of the estate.

The decision

The judge concluded that the intestacy rules did not make reasonable financial provision for the Claimant. She reasonably required to be housed in a property, he found, which allowed her to continue to receive the income from her rented property but the judge was ‘quite unable to accept’ the proposition that she should own such a property outright. He found her housing needs to be £110,000 plus payment of the costs incidental to that purchase. He directed that the property should be purchased on trust for the deceased’s two sons subject to a right of occupation by the Claimant.

Implications

The case provides a useful working example of a cohabitee claim under the Act. From a small estate, the Claimant’s claim for a property outright was rejected (although she was only 60 years of age). The judge also rejected the sons’ argument that the Claimant’s housing needs could be met from occupation of her existing property, on the basis that this would leave her without an income. The Claimant was granted occupation of a modest property (for so long as she wished to occupy it) with the beneficial interest thereafter to revert to the deceased’s sons.

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