Pensioner loses inheritance because he was not married

by Sarah Ashcroft

The importance of looking at a DIY Will Kit has been highlighted by a case in which a pensioner lost his partner's fortune because they failed to tie the knot. Leonard Taylor, 72, is set to lose the home he shared with Doris Luker and much of the cash she left him.

He had lived with her for 15 years and was her sole carer for three years before her death in 2003. She left the retired architect, 22 years her junior, the home, her car and £28,000 in cash. A week before she died, Ms Luker had given her partner a cheque for £61,000.

The remainder of the estate was left to the British Heart Foundation and the Cancer Research Campaign. However, there was nothing left for them after Mr Taylor's share was accounted for.

Executors of her estate, with the backing of the two charities, queried the cheque payment made to Mr Taylor. Though Judge David Cooke said the 72-year-old had behaved "in every way as a gentleman", he would have to repay the money to the estate.

In addition to paying back the £61,000, the pensioner has been landed with legal bills of £100,000 that could mean he is forced into selling his home.

Judge Cooke explained that in absence of any evidence to the contrary, there was a presumption that the money should have been repaid. Mr Taylor's barrister James Quirke said the presumption that the money was advanced as a loan and not as a gift should only apply to strangers.

Stephen Morgan, head of legacies management at the British Heart Foundation, said: "We are pleased the High Court had ruled in our favour and has chosen to respect the wishes of the late Doris Luker. We are always grateful to everyone who chooses to remember us in their Will and support our work in the fight against heart disease."

A recent announcement by the government that it would not pursue proposals to strengthen unmarried couples' property and inheritance rights confirms that cohabitees should ensure they have written a last will and testament.

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Published on: November 7, 2011

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