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Judge orders no financial provision for deceased’s adult children

 

In the recent case of Miles & Shearer v Shearer [2021] EWHC 1000 (Ch), a claim was brought against the estate of Anthony Shearer.

Anthony’s estate was valued at £2.2 million.

The claimants were Anthony’s two adult daughters, Juliet and Lauretta, who were aged 40 and 39 at the time of their claim. Juliet and Lauretta’s mother, Jennifer, was Anthony’s first wife.

Anthony had left Juliet and Lauretta out of his last Will.

He had instead chosen to leave the majority of his estate to his second wife, Pamela, who ended up defending the claims.

Juliet and Lauretta sought reasonable financial provision from Anthony’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (the ‘1975 Act’).

In 1975 Act claims, if the court considers that there has been a failure by the deceased to make reasonable financial provision for a claimant, the court will consider what financial provision should be made from the estate to right the wrong.

At the time of the trial, Juliet was divorcing her second husband and had two children of her own, the younger of which was severely autistic. She was not working, but wanted to become a dog behaviourist, and she was living with Jennifer in a large house in the country. She had capital of about £177,000.

From her father’s estate, she sought funding for housing, the costs of her training to become a dog behaviourist and a lump sum payment for her maintenance.

The court rejected her arguments stating that she had not established a need for maintenance from the estate, there were realistic housing alternatives available to her even if Jennifer sold the house they shared and that she could realistically earn £15,000 per annum as a dog behaviourist, which would be sufficient to cover her maintenance needs if adjustments were made to her lifestyle.

Lauretta was divorced, had one child, was working at an auction house earning £70,000 per annum and had capital of around £300,000.She sought a lump sum of £244,000 to allow her to switch from an interest only to a repayment mortgage and a lump sum of £105,000 to allow her to buy out her ex-husband from their flat.

The court also rejected her arguments, deciding it was unlikely that the sum of £244,000, to enable the conversion of the mortgage, would fall within the ‘maintenance’ requirement under the 1975 Act, and that the £105,000 requested did not fall within her financial needs.

Juliet and Lauretta failed to show that their father had an obligation and/or responsibility for them at the time of his death. The court came to the conclusion that Anthony had no legal obligation to maintain the claimants after they reached 18 years old.

A hugely important factor for the court in deciding the claims was that Anthony had previously made gifts of £177,000 and £185,000 to his daughters in 2008 and made clear to them that he would not provide them with any further financial assistance, which he did not.

The Judge ultimately concluded that both daughters were able to meet their maintenance needs from resources other than their father’s estate and, at the time of his death, their father had no obligation or responsibility towards them.

As such, they both failed to establish that reasonable financial provision had not been provided for them and their claims were dismissed.

Juliet and Lauretta have been given permission to appeal, so watch this space.

For advice on claims under the 1975 Act and other inheritance disputes, please contact Emma Bryson or another member of our Disputed Wills and Trusts team.

Image of Emma Bryson, Bolt Burdon Solicitors, Islington

Emma Bryson

020 7288 4714
07767 232 023
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