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Adult Children Inheritance Claims - Reasonable Provision refused in Court Case

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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.

Statutory claims

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.

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Why are inheritance disputes on the rise?

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Pinney Talfourd's Contested Probate Solicitor, Kerry Hull explains that the rise in inheritance disputes is due to a number of factors. 

Inheritance disputes were once considered the preserve of the super-wealthy or famous but in recent years the number of children disputing their parent’s estate in the High Court has risen by 11% to 116 in 2015 from 104 the previous year according to The Times.

Kerry Hull, contested wills and probate solicitor at Pinney Talfourd in Essex explains that the rise in inheritance disputes is due to a number of factors.

The use of home-made wills is a major contributor, but the rise in these types of disputes also reflects the changing nature of our society’, says Kerry.

Higher rates of divorce, remarriage and cohabitation, combined with an increase in the value of estates, longer life expectancy and a greater awareness of rights, means that relatives are less willing to do nothing when their inheritance is taken from them.

An inheritance dispute can take any number of forms, from concerns that a will has been incorrectly made or forged, to a dependant believing that they have been unfairly left out or not received what they were entitled to.

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Monty Python's Terry Jones diagnosed with Dementia

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Sad news was revealed this week that comedian, actor and director, Terry Jones, has been diagnosed with a progressive form of dementia.

Dementia can take a variety of forms and it is very difficult not only for the victim to cope with, but also for the family and friends to see a loved one suffering in this way.

Whilst it is not easy to think of the practical issues that arise from a loved one suffering from dementia, there are a number of important considerations such as who will manage their finances, their property and even make medical decisions on their behalf. Dealing with these issues can cause difficulties for the family and friends of a dementia sufferer, at what is already an extremely traumatic time for them.

No one likes to think about the possibility of them or a loved one suffering from any form of dementia, but sadly it does happen and it is important to be prepared in case. 

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that enables you to appoint someone to legally manage your property and financial affairs, as well as make health and welfare decisions on your behalf in the event you become unable to make those decisions.

An LPA is best viewed as an insurance document - hopefully it will never be needed but by having it in place it gives both you and your loved ones peace of mind that they are able to make decisions for you should the need arise.

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Wills, Tax, Trusts and Probate Department recommended again

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Legal 500 UK results have just been announced! We are ranked again as a leading firm for personal tax, trusts and probate work.

We are delighted to announce that our Wills, Tax, Trusts and Probate Department are recommended yet again by Legal 500 UK 2016.

The Legal 500 rankings are carefully selected after rigorous assessment and provide a guide to the top legal providers across the UK.

Growing team

Matthew Edwards’ team is in demand due to it's outstanding reputation and solicitors Christopher Dickinson and Nicholas Conway have recently joined the popular team.

Christopher is based in Hornchurch whilst Nicholas is based in the Brentwood’s new office on Ongar Road.

The team regularly offer presentations and free advice sessions to the local community and Matthew Edwards is a member of the Court of Protection Deputyship Panel, one of only 68 in the country. All members of the team are members of STEP.

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Who will inherit your estate - promises and arguments

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Solicitor Chris Dickinson explains the importance of knowing what is in your estate and who you have promised it to.

From time to time, families will talk about the future and parents will often give an indication to their children of what they can expect to inherit when they pass away. However, relationships and circumstances can change over time and this may influence how people choose to leave their estates.

In the recent case of Davies v Davies, an elderly couple owned a farm worth in the region of £4m. They had three children. One of their daughters worked on the farm for 25 years for a minimal wage as she helped support its upkeep. The other two children did not work on the farm as they were progressing their own careers. The parents had repeatedly promised their daughter that she would eventually inherit the farm from them in recognition of her commitment to its maintenance.

After a family dispute, the couple had a falling out with their daughter and sought proceedings to evict her from the farm. In turn, the daughter claimed that she had a beneficial interest in the farm through her commitment to its upkeep and the promises made by her parents. The daughter also claimed that she had worked for a minimum wage on the understanding she would inherit the farm and, if this was not going to be the case, that she would have pursued a more fruitful career like her siblings.

The judge agreed with the daughter’s argument that she had acted to her own detriment in reliance on her parents’ promise and made an award of £1.3m to her. The parents appealed this decision and were successful in having the daughter’s award reduced to £500,000.

Cases like this demonstrate the importance of knowing what is in your estate, who you intend to benefit, whether there are likely to be any claims brought against you or your estate and, ultimately, seeking proper legal advice to ensure your affairs are in order. 

MORE INFORMATION

If you would like to discuss your affairs and have your Will prepared or updated,please contact a member of our Wills, Trusts, Tax and Probate Department who can expertly guide you through the process. Call 01708 229 444 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
 

This article was written by Chris Dickinson, an Associate Solicitor in our Wills, Trusts, Tax and Probate Department at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors. This article is only intended to provide a general summary and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at August 2016.
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Office of the Public Guardian – Gratuitous Care Payments

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Becoming a Deputy carries a lot of responsibility and The Office of Public Guardian has provided some guidelines regarding family care payments.

Individuals who take on the role of Deputy to a person lacking capacity (usually to a close friend or family member) often fail to fully understand and appreciate the burden, responsibility and duties that fall to them in handling the financial obligations and in particular maintaining accounts and financial records of expenditure.

Such accounts are open to inspection by the Office of the Public Guardian, not only on an annual basis but particularly if a third party should have cause to raise concern over items of expenditure on behalf of the donor.

On 18th May 2016 the Office of the Public Guardian published a practice note on its approach to family care payments that Court of Protection Deputies make to family members who are providing care to someone who lacks mental capacity.

The Guide provides a helpful definition of family care, the legal framework and when Court of Protection authority is required. It highlights factors a Deputy should consider when deciding if payments are in the patient’s best interest and the level of those payments.

Family Care

Frequently, family members provide a level of informal care such as cooking, laundry, cleaning and companion care. On occasions this can go beyond this to include physiotherapy and nursing skills over lengthy time periods and many do this without expectation of payment. However, receiving such care can frequently be in the Patient’s best interest and enhance their quality of life. If there is no contractual relationship and the care is provided by way of natural love and affection without agreed hours or breaks the Deputy would be entitled to consider a family care package.

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Lasting Powers of Attorney and bank difficulties

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Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) are becoming more common due to an increase in awareness. However banks may need more training to keep up.
An LPA is a legal document that allows you (the Donor) to decide who will act and make decisions on your behalf when you do not have the mental capacity to make decisions for yourself. The people you appoint are known as your Attorneys and they have a duty to act in your best interests. 

The purpose of an LPA is to protect your future by ensuring your affairs will still be looked after by someone you trust in the event you lose the ability to make decisions for yourself.

The first step for an Attorney stepping in to assist with your financial affairs would be to make contact with your bank. This allows them to be registered on the bank’s records as your Attorney, with the appropriate authority to manage your accounts on your behalf.

However, reports suggest that over the last five years banks have received an increasing number of complaints from people attempting to manage their loved ones accounts under an LPA. The reason for these complaints appears to be two fold:

1. Staff within banks have not been properly trained to deal with LPAs and have subsequently misadvised customers; and

2. The Donor and Attorneys themselves have made mistakes with either the preparation and registration of the LPA, or have not presented the bank with sufficient documentation to have themselves noted on the account.

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Pinney Talfourd raises over £2,000 for hospice

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Pinney Talfourd were pleased to participate once again in ‘Make a Will Fortnight’ in aid of Saint Francis Hospice.
The pro bono charitable scheme ran during June with the Private Client department donating their time free of charge to write Wills for clients who in return made a charitable donation to Saint Francis Hospice. A total of £2,080 was raised.

Matthew Edwards, Head of the Private Client department, commented on the success of the campaign: “It is estimated that 60% of adults do not have a Will so this charitable initiative gave the incentive many people needed to make one whilst also making a worthwhile charitable donation. It was pleasing to see an increased number of people participate in the scheme this year. We would like to thank all of our clients who participated and contributed so generously. ”

Saint Francis Hospice opened its doors over 30 years ago and is one of the largest adult hospices in the UK serving Havering, Brentwood, Barking, Dagenham, Redbridge and West Essex. As an independent charity, Saint Francis Hospice is reliant on voluntary donations and that is why campaigns like 'Make a Will Fortnight' are so important.

This year Saint Francis Hospice requires £7.3 million to enable them to continue their excellent work offering specialist care and support to individuals and their family. Please take a look at their website for more information www.sfh.org.uk.

More information

If you would like more information on Wills, Trusts, Tax, Probate and Lasting Power of Attorney please contact a member of our Wills, Trusts, Tax and Probate Department who will be happy to discuss this in more detail.  Call 01708 229 444 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


This article was written by Chris Dickinson, an Associate Solicitor in our Wills, Trusts, Tax and Probate Department at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. 
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Decisions over rights of a deceased body

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Following the death of a family member there can be disputes over decisions on the funeral. Contentious probate expert Kerry Hull explains.

More often these arguments can be whether the deceased should be buried or cremated where the deceased has previously given no clear indication of a preference. However, on occasions such disputes can go even deeper.

The personal representatives of a deceased are primarily responsible for the disposal of a body. Their appointment and duties arise normally through the naming and appointment in the deceased’s will. If there is no will it will be the person who is entitled to letters of administration.

However, S116 of the Senior Courts Act 1981 gives the court power, in special circumstances, to pass over the person with primary responsibility, should it be necessary and appropriate to do so.

ANSTEY –V- MUNDLE AND ANOTHER (2016)

S116 of the Senior Courts Act 1981 was used in a recent case when the immediate family members were unable to agree where the deceased body should be buried. Having been born in Jamaica, but having lived and worked in the UK for many years the deceased had expressed a wish to be buried beside his mother in Jamaica. A will (the validity of which was disputed) appointed two of his daughters as Executors and set out the same wish. Two other daughters objected, believing the deceased wished to be buried in the UK. At an injunction hearing the court determined to whom letters of administration should be granted solely for the purpose of disposal of the body only.

The Judge determined that the court had jurisdiction to direct who had the right and duty to bury the deceased. It was unclear if the power under S116 SCA 1981 enabled the court to choose among a group that was equally entitled. The Judge therefore settled the matter upon the courts inherent jurisdiction applying relevant criteria identified in an earlier case of Hartshorne –v- Gardner (2008), such criteria being:

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