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Businessman’s extramarital infant children successfully challenge his will

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In an important case decided by the court earlier this month, two infant children a man had as a result of a long term affair were awarded £386,000 from his estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 after receiving nothing under his will which was made before they were born.

The decision in this case is an important one as there have been very few claims made by infant children under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 for reasonable provision from a parent’s estate in the past. Previously, the majority of cases claiming reasonable provision from a parent’s estate have been made by a deceased’s adult children. The decision the judge came to in this case is therefore likely to be used as guidance in similar cases in the future.

Background

The deceased met his wife in 1987 and they had a child together in 1994. As a result of being born three months prematurely, their child suffers from paralysis to one side of the body and learning difficulties. The deceased and his wife married in 2000, built up a successful pharmaceutical business together and owned a number of properties in South West London.

The deceased met Ms Corrado in 2007 and began having a long term affair with her in 2009. The deceased made a will in 2010 under which he left his £3.5 million estate to his wife or, if she died before him, their child.

During the course of their affair, the deceased and Ms Corrado had two children together who were born in 2012 and 2014. The deceased did not execute a new will following the birth of his children with Ms Corrado. He died suddenly in 2015, whilst he was in the process of getting divorced from his wife and moving in with Ms Corrado and their children..

Following his death, Ms Corrado brought a claim on behalf of her children requesting provision for them from the deceased’s estate as they had not been provided for in his will.

The decision

The judge acknowledged that a person’s freedom to leave their assets to whomever they want is a fundamental right but that, on the facts of this case, the significance of the provisions of the deceased’s will had limited bearing. Since making his will the deceased had two further children who he had shown a desire to provide for during his lifetime by paying for their childcare fees, food and clothing. The judge noted that a child’s financial needs should rank very highly in the order of priorities and considered the children’s housing, childcare and education needs for the remainder of their childhood in deciding to award them a lump sum payment of £386,000.

Interestingly, the judge broadly accepted the figures which Ms Corrado had asked the court to award her children in relation to housing and childcare needs. However, Ms Corrado had also asked the court to award just over £460,000 from the estate to fund a private education for them. This was on the basis that it had been the deceased’s intention to have their children privately educated and would give them the best possible start in life. The judge, however, did not accept that this had been the Deceased’s intention, given that the children had been so young at the time of his death, and did not award them any allowance for private school fees.

Although this award could be considered modest in the context of two very young children and an estate totalling £3.5 million, the judge was also conscious of the responsibility the deceased’s owed to his wife and his other child who has significant care needs as a result of his medical conditions.

This case illustrates how vital it is to ensure that you have a will in place and that it accurately reflects who you would like your assets to pass to when you die. If there is a significant change in your circumstances – for example the birth of a child, a divorce or receiving an inheritance – it is essential that you review your will and check that it works how you intend it to in light of these changes. If this is not the case, it can be extremely costly both financially and emotionally for your relatives to resolve any issues after you have passed away.

If you require assistance with making, challenging or defending a challenge to a will, Clarion’s experienced lawyers will be happy to assist you. Please contact Danielle Pawson on 0113 227 3634 or danielle.pawson@clarionsolicitors.com for further information.

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