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The importance of keeping your will up-to-date – especially if your relationship circumstances change – has been underlined by a recent court case.

Norman Martin had failed to keep his will updated, which meant that when he died in 2012, his share of his £320,000 house went to his long-estranged wife, Norma Martin, instead of to Joy Williams, with whom he had been living since 2009.

The court eventually ruled in favour of Joy Williams, but not after a long, stressful court battle that eventually cost Norma Martin £100,000 in court fees.

Now, despite winning the claim, Ms Williams has urged other people to ensure their financial matters are in order and up to date.

Speaking to media after the case, she said: “I am relieved and delighted that this case is finally over because it has taken a huge toll on me and my family. I was with Norman for 18 years and those were very happy times. I loved him, he loved me and I still treasure his memory.

“All I wanted was for the Court to recognise that I needed to have his share of the house that was our home to provide me with some security for my future and this judgement has done just that. I believe that that is what Norman would have wanted for me. The judge’s decision means I can now stay in my home and my future is much more secure as I have the freedom to sell the property in the future when I need to.

“What has been traumatic for me is that this level of serious relationship is not currently recognised by the law and I therefore had to bring this claim in court to achieve some security and to obtain this result. I hope my situation raises awareness for others to consider their own financial position in relation to their partner and consider whether they need to take advice to protect their each other in future.”

At DMA Law, we always remind people that there is no such thing as a ‘common law’ partner, as Ms Williams found out to her cost.

It doesn’t matter how long you have been living with someone, if you are not married, then the law simply doesn’t ‘value’ your relationship in the same way that it does a married couple.

If either half of an unmarried, but co-habiting, couple dies, then their belongings would not necessarily go to their loved one. Assets would potentially go to children, estranged partners, or, if there are no other relatives, it could go to the Government.

Imagine if your belongings ended up being seized by the Treasury because you hadn’t completed a will.

It is an out-of-date approach, but until it is overhauled, we could continue to see cases such as this one developing.

If your relationships or circumstances change, then make sure your will is updated to suit your wishes – failing to do so could cause huge amounts of heartache and stress for your loved ones.

You can speak to DMA’s wills team today, on 01325 482 299, or feel free to drop in to our legal walk-in centre in Darlington for a no-obligation chat about wills.