Last week saw the media report on two cases involving claims made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 with very different outcomes!
The first involved the claim of Thandi Wooldridge who inherited £5.85million from her husband’s estate but who claimed she needed more to maintain the lifestyle she was used to before her husband’s death. The Central London County Court dismissed her claim confirming, rather unsurprisingly, that the claimant could not establish that her husband had failed to provide her with sufficient financial provision to meet her needs.
The second was the case of Joy Williams who claimed financial provision from her late partner Mr Martin’s estate who died intestate (i.e. without leaving a will). Although Mr Martin and Ms Williams purchased their home jointly some years previously, they held it as “tenants in common”. This meant that Mr Martin’s share passed to his wife whom he had separated from but never divorced in accordance with intestacy rules rather than to Ms Williams. After hearing that the unmarried couple lived together for 18 years, the court ruled that Mr Martin’s share pass to Ms Williams rather than to his estranged wife. This case of course highlights the need for unmarried partners in particular to keep their wills up to date. Had Mr Martin had a will leaving his share of the house to Ms Williams, there would have been no need for costly litigation.
Neither of these conclusions can be considered surprising in light of the wording and aim of the Inheritance Act 1975 which provides for applications to be brought against estates by certain applicants based upon financial need. However they do show the variety in cases brought to the courts which is creating an ever-diverse body of case law for solicitors to analyse and apply.
Contentious Probate specialists at Woodfines have experience in acting for both claimants and defendants of Inheritance Act claims and should be consulted at an early stage if such a claim is contemplated.