If you are not a beneficiary in your parents’ Will, why would a court automatically grant you any of their estate? A recent case suggests they may not…
When 41-year-old Danielle Ames’ father passed away having cut her out of his £1 million Will, she brought a claim against his Estate. The Estate included the £650,000 family home in Hertfordshire and a number of other assets.
Ms Ames argued that no reasonable financial provision had been made for her. She claimed she was dependent upon her father and entitled to a share of his Estate which had been left entirely to her stepmother, Elaine Ames.
Miss Ames expressed surprise at having been cut out of her father’s Will but Judge Halpern QC determined she had exaggerated the strength of her relationship with her father and she had no moral claim on his money. The Judge told Miss Ames at Central London County Court that her lack of employment was a lifestyle choice and when claiming that her father had assured her that “it will be all yours one day” she was “gilding the lily”. Judge Halpern decided that Mr Ames’ widow with whom he had lived with for over 30 years required the entirety of the Estate to lead a comfortable retirement. The Judge commented that Mrs Ames was not living the highlife and needed the whole of the husband’s Estate to meet her reasonable needs.
A court will generally try to uphold the terms of a valid Will, but there is a recognised statutory claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 for a child to make a claim on a parents Estate whether by having been excluded from the Will or under intestacy provisions. Such claims do not prohibit adult children, and in a case where reasonable financial provision has not been made, the Inheritance Act enables the court to vary the distribution of assets between potential dependants.
There appears to be no good reason why Miss Ames was unable to secure employment, suffering from no disability. The Judge was of the view Miss Ames had failed to discharge the burden proving that she was unable to obtain work.
This unsuccessful claim follows a rise in Inheritance claims being pursued through the courts. The finding of Judge Halpern is that the provisions of the Will did not show that the deceased had acted unreasonably, and Miss Ames moral obligation claim was insufficient in which to successfully pursue her claim.
Kerry Hull is an experienced contested wills and probate solicitor at Pinney Talfourd and has handled many similar contentious probate cases. If you would like more information on any contentious issues wih regard to probate, wills and estate administration please contact our Contentious Probate Department on 01708 229444.
This article was written by Kerry Hull, Senior Associate at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at October 2016.