Daughter Written Out Of Father’s Will Makes Successful Family Provision Claim
As you may have read in one of our previous blogs, the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 means that certain individuals (usually family members or dependent persons) can challenge a Will if they feel they have not been left reasonable financial provision.
A recent case provides an interesting insight into how the Act can work in practice, when a daughter made a claim against the estate of her late father.
What’s particularly interesting in this case is that the father had written a letter to accompany his Will which stated that he had not made provision for his children because he had not “seen or heard from any of my children in the last 18 years” and that they all had “independent means.”
The net value of the Deceased’s estate at time of death was over £260,000, the entirety of which was left to a friend whom he had also appointed as sole executor.
The Deceased’s daughter, Elena, was one of three children he’d fathered, but the only child of his second marriage. One of her half siblings had already made a claim under the 1975 Inheritance Act due to ill-health and disability which prevented him from working. This had been settled for £22,000.
Whilst Elena was of an age where she could support herself, she wanted to become a veterinary nurse. She was working multiple jobs (including an unpaid role at a veterinary surgery) and studying for GCSEs re-sits and obtaining a diploma, to achieve her goal.
Living in rented accommodation, Elena was reliant on payday loans, a situation which deteriorated further when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and had to take time off work.
She hoped that the claim would fund her studies which would lead to her qualifying as a veterinary nurse and in turn lift herself out of debt.
Elena did not seek to deny the Deceased’s friend a portion of the estate which had been left to him. She acknowledged that he had been a friend to her father for many years and looked after him when he was diagnosed with cancer, even to the extent of neglecting his own business.
Despite claims in the Deceased’s letter about not seeing his children “in the last 18 years” Elena provided evidence that although she lost contact with her father when she was eleven following his divorce from her mother, she had contacted him again in 2007. She claimed they maintained a relationship until 2009, when her father cut her off again after disapproving of her boyfriend.
Whilst the judge noted that there was no obligation on the Deceased’s part to provide support to a child who was a working adult, the judge did query the letter in which he claimed his three children were of “independent means.” He said Elena “was only making ends meet by taking out loans, some of which were payday loans on the basis that was all she could get”.
Whilst the judge acknowledged that the note left by the Deceased was relevant in terms of his intention and his relationship with Elena, he was impressed by Elena’s evidence and did not regard her as “a prodigal daughter who has only reappeared when there is the possibility of some money to be had”.
The judge concluded that the Will did not make reasonable financial provision for Elena. He suggested that the claimant was far from well off and had a genuine aspiration to improve herself. In addition, he noted that the size of the estate was enough to “justify provision for her, even when the claims of other parties are taken into account.”
Whilst Elena’s ambitions to become a veterinary nurse did not fall under the Inheritance Act as to the expectations of education or training, they were still a relevant factor according to the judge.
Importantly, the judge also noted that whilst the Deceased explained his reasons for the lack of provision in a letter, this did not automatically mean that they were reasonable, especially considering that her father had misunderstood Elena’s financial circumstances.
In terms of the claim amount, the judge decreed that ‘reasonable financial provision’ for Elena should be £30,000.
If you are in need of advice in relation to reasonable financial provision or any matter relating to Wills and Probate, please call the expert team at Curtis Parkinson Solicitors on 0115 9647740 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that all views, comments or opinions expressed are for information only and do not constitute and should not be interpreted as being comprehensive or as giving legal advice. No one should seek to rely or act upon, or refrain from acting upon, the views, comments or opinions expressed herein without first obtaining specialist, professional or independent advice. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, Curtis Parkinson cannot be held liable for any errors, omissions or inaccuracies.