|Man entitled to 45% of late partner’s estate, High Court rules|
A 64-year-old man is entitled to 45 per cent of his deceased partner’s €1.41 million estate under civil partnership law despite objections by her three brothers, the High Court has ruled.
|The man asked the court to make financial provision for him from her estate under the 2010 Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations Cohabitants Act.|
The youngest brother, supported by his two siblings, argued the man did not qualify as he was just a close friend, not a cohabitee.
The man was required to show he had been in an intimate cohabiting relationship with the woman for at least five years, the period required for couples with no children.
Ms Justice Marie Baker said she was satisfied there was a close relationship, and up until the time of her illness, a sexual relationship, entitling the man to be provided for as a cohabitee.
Relatively modest income
While he owns a farm, which the judge valued at €1.44 million, the man had a relatively modest gross income of €45,000 per annum and was entitled to maintain some elements of the lifestyle he had had with his deceased partner, the court ruled.
She found they had had a close relationship since 1995/6, after her mother died.
The man moved in with her in 2004 and had had no other home since then.
The couple met in 1994 and were both involved in farming, although she also had a job in a the community.
The judge was satisfied the man moved in with the woman on the day his own mother died in 2004. While his family farm had been signed over to him, his family home went to his only sibling, a brother.
Despite conversations between the couple in later years about marriage, it never happened, the judge said.
The deceased often said her view was that women after childbearing age had no reason to marry and had said to him that marriage would not improve or change their situation “one bit”, the judge said.
He had felt “burnt” financially and emotionally by a previous marriage which had been annulled and from which there were also no children, the judge added.
Property deal windfall
In 2005, his late partner benefited from a €3.1 million windfall arising out of a property deal on land which had been left to her by her mother.
She invested about €1.3 million in property.
Their lifestyle as a couple also changed. She bought him a car, gave him cash gifts and spent €500,000 doing up her home.
They became members of a leisure club, had frequent holidays, dined out most nights and joined the local golf club.
Ms Justice Baker was satisfied, despite testimony from the brothers that they never saw any evidence of the man’s toiletries in the bathroom of their sister’s home, or his clothes, that he was a man of modest and minimal needs and did have toiletries and clothes there.
He had looked after his late partner, including bringing her to hospital when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, the judge said.
During her last two weeks of life last year, when she was admitted to a hospice, there was a hostile atmosphere between the brothers and the man, the judge heard.
He made the funeral arrangements and was at the head of the church party.
The judge said an important event happened in the hospice the week before she died.
The man said his partner expressed a wish to get married but was told by a priest of the three months’ notice requirement for marriage.
They were not informed an emergency application could have been made to a court to dispense with this requirement, the judge added.
The judge said the evidence was the couple discussed marriage a few years earlier and he was concerned the money she had come into sometimes acted as a barrier.
In one conversation, she jokingly said if they were to marry he could be seen locally as a “gold digger”.
While this was evidence of their close bond, they chose not to marry for their own reasons, the judge said.
The deceased, in 2013, had prepared a document in which she wanted the family home to go to her brothers and the investment property to her partner, the judge said.
After further distribution of certain sums to her family, her partner was to get the rest, the document stated.
This pointed to the fact the deceased chose not to make a will and the document must inform the court’s thinking in deciding apportionment of the estate.
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