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Dependency claims after divorce

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975.

A case before the Courts in 2015 considered the unusual issue of a divorced couple who had continued to live together.
Mr Fryer married Miss Chekov only to divorce her several years later. In this instance, the divorce order stated that ‘ Neither party shall be entitled to claim against the estate of the other unless the parties shall remarry.’  The couple, however, did not have the funds to allow either one of them to move out and so continued to live together even after their divorce was finalized.  Upon the death of Mr Fryer his Will provided that his entire estate should be left to his sons from a previous marriage.   Miss Chekov brought a claim for financial dependency since she had been reliant on Mr Fryer for the roof over her head prior to his death.  She believed therefore that she was entitled to a proportion of Mr Fryer’s estate because the divorce order only prevented her claiming as a ‘former spouse’ but not as a ‘cohabitee’ of Mr Fryer.
Although Mr Fryer’s sons argued that Miss Chekov was not eligible to claim against the Estate, she successfully claimed under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975. Her continued cohabitation with Mr Fryer allowed the  Court to make a distinction between the couple’s married life and their life following the divorce, where they continued to live together.
Every dependency claim under the Inheritance Act is different and will turn on its own facts but this case shows the ability of the law to adapt to unusual circumstances in a family arrangement and to protect those left vulnerable on the death of another. This particular case reminds us of the Court’s discretion when applying the principles of the 1975 Act even in a case where a previous divorce order specifically excludes a claim under the Act.
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