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Woman awarded significant sum from partner’s estate despite being left nothing in his will to avoid her children inheriting

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A 79 year old woman, who cohabited with the deceased for 42 years, but was left nothing in his will, has been awarded £160,000 from his estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975.

Ms Thompson and her first child moved in with Mr Hodge in the mid-1970s. Mr Hodge made many wills during his lifetime, all of which provided that Ms Thompson would receive a share of his estate when he died, except for the last one he executed in December 2016 aged 90 years old. Mr Hodge died two months after making this will which left his substantial estate, worth £1,500,000, to a young couple who rented out one of the houses on his farm.

Alongside the will, Mr Hodge left a letter of wishes explaining that he had not provided for Ms Thompson, or her children, as he felt that they had taken advantage of him and already received or taken money from him during my lifetime. He also said that he was departing from the terms of his previous will, which left his residuary estate on trust to pay its income to Ms Thompson during her lifetime, as “this would be a substantial sum” and he did not think Ms Thompson would need it. He stated that Ms Thompson had her own savings and was financially comfortable. He went on to say, therefore, that he did not want Ms Thompson or her children to inherit from his estate.

Ms Thompson brought a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 asking the court to make an award to her from Mr Hodge’s estate on the basis that he had not made reasonable financial provision for her in his last will. At trial, the judge noted that Ms Thompson’s savings were actually very modest, amounting to around £2,500, and her only income consisted of state benefit and disability living allowance totalling £1,114 per month. She could not necessarily, therefore, be described as financially comfortable.

The judge did not hesitate in deciding that Ms Thompson was entitled to reasonable financial provision from Mr Hodge’s estate for her maintenance as she had been financially dependent on him during his life, and now on his death. Ms Thompson had worked on Mr Hodge’s farm, his caravan business and cared for his mother in her old age without pay and was therefore reliant on him to maintain her. The judge held that Mr Hodge’s predominant motive for not providing for Ms Thompson in his last will was that “he did not want any of his assets to fall into the hands of her children” which was “not a sufficient reason for leaving her without any provision”.

He therefore decided to award Ms Thompson £160,000 and transfer a cottage to her which Mr Hodge had bought with the intention that he and Ms Thompson live there when they retired. The judge considered the following factors when coming to his decision:

  1. what Mr Hodge had left to Ms Thompson in his previous wills;
  2. Ms Thompson’s age;
  3. the amount of time Mr Hodge and Ms Thompson had lived together as husband and wife; and
  4. Ms Thompson’s living expenses, including the care which she required as a result of various health issues.

If you would like to discuss making a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 with a member of our specialist team, please contact Danielle Pawson on 0113 227 3634 or danielle.pawson@clarionsolicitors.com

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