Rights of Cohabitants: High Court rules man entitled to 45% of late partner’s estate

Ms Justice Marie Baker in the High Court recently decided that a man is entitled to 45 per cent of his deceased partner’s €1.41 million estate under the 2010 Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations Cohabitants Act. This court ruling was made despite the objections of the deceased lady’s three brothers.

After a five-year battle against cancer the woman died last year at the age 0f 69. 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 deceased had not made a will. However, the youngest brother of the deceased, supported by two siblings, argued that this man did not qualify as he was just a close friend and not a cohabitee as defined under the 2010 Act.  In Court the man was required to show he had an intimate co-habiting relationship with the woman for at least 5 years.

Justice Marie Baker was satisfied there was a close relationship, and up until the time of her illness, an intimate relationship, she ruled the man was entitled to be provided for as a cohabitee. While he owned a farm himself, which was valued at €1.44 million, he had a modest income of €45,000 per annum and the Judge ruled that he was entitled to maintain the lifestyle he had had with his deceased partner.

The Judge found they had had a close relationship since 1995/6, after her mother died.  The man moved in with her in 2004 having met in 1994. 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 old family home had been signed over to his only sibling. Despite conversations between the couple in later years about marriage, it never happened.

In 2005, the lady benefited from a €3.1 million windfall arising out of a property deal on land which she had inherited from her own mother. Their lifestyle as a couple 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 often and joined the local golf club.

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 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.