Article written by Charlotte Mandy, Solicitor, Private Client department
The recent case of Barkatali v Davies  EWHC 753 (Ch) highlights again the importance of having a well prepared and valid Will when you die to avoid your loved ones from being left without rights or access to your assets or property.
In this recent case, the deceased was the leaseholder of a flat and when he died, his partner’s (Mr Barkatali) right to occupy the property came to an end. The deceased died without making a Will and as a result, his elderly father was the sole beneficiary of his estate under the rules of intestacy. About two weeks after his son’s death, the father changed the locks on the flat and excluded Mr Barkatali from the property.
An injunction was sought against the father, requesting that Mr Barkatali be reinstated in possession of the flat. Mr Barkatali argued that on the basis that he had been living with the deceased in the same household for over two years, as if they were civil partners, he was entitled to reasonable provision from the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
However, the High Court refused the application and noted that the evidence indicated that Mr Barkatali was supporting the deceased financially, rather than the other way around. Although he was not currently working, that was likely to be a temporary state of affairs and, once he resumed employment, he was likely to earn at a level which would be entirely satisfactory to meet his needs.
Mr Barkatali pointed to his emotional attachment to the flat, but the Court was not persuaded that he had a need for maintenance which could only be met by allowing him to remain in that particular property. His plea that an order should be made permitting him to purchase the flat at its market value was also rejected. His need for accommodation could reasonably be met by renting or buying another property.
The Court strongly disapproved of the father’s action in changing the locks, but noted that granting the order sought would permit the man to occupy a flat in which he had no legal or beneficial interest without the consent of the owner of the estate.
This decision acts as a stark warning to those seeking specific property under the 1975 Act. It also demonstrates the challenges faced by co-habitants seeking the right to remain in a property after the death of their cohabitee if a Will has not been prepared. A properly prepared Will would have set out what the deceased wanted to happen to the property and what rights he wanted Mr Barkatali to have after he died.
At Grant Saw, we have extensive experience in advising clients and making sure they avoid situations like this. We work with clients to ensure that they end up with a Will that is right for their circumstances. This ensures you can have confidence that when the time comes, your estate and your loved ones will be looked after in the way you intended.
For advice on making sure your estate will be dealt with fairly and efficiently, please get in touch today by emailing me or feel free to contact me directly on 020 8305 4231.