The Inheritance Provision for Family and Dependants Act (1975) allows UK courts to vary the distribution of the estate of a deceased person. Additional benefits may apply to any spouse, former spouse, child, child of the family, or dependant of that person.
However this only applies to cases where the deceased person’s will, or the standard rules of intestacy fail to make reasonable financial provision.
The Tale of the Dissatisfied Daughter
The late Earl of Cowley left an estate worth £1.3 million. According to Alexa Payet writing in Legal Futures this included a bequest of £20,000 to his daughter Tara with whom he was estranged.
He left the remainder to his fourth wife for life. Upon her death he directed his son and five step children share the money. However, Tara was dissatisfied with her lot. She claimed she needed substantially more to train and work as an artist.
The Facts of the Daughter’s Case
The claimant had not been in touch with her father for thirty years. This was after he disapproved of her “chaotic lifestyle” especially in her youth. According to Alexa Payet the Earl tried to persuade her to amend her ways, but failed.
Tara had an unfortunate start to life. She lived with her “troubled mother” until she was eleven. After that she spent time in care, because “she unable to ever settle into the family home of her father which he shared with his widow and her children”.
Fast forward to the present moment. Tara’s twenty-one-year-old son is in a residential home for adults with special needs. She has not worked for several years either because she has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Accordingly, she lives on state benefits while she dreams of becoming an artist.
What the Court Decided Regarding Tara’s Inheritance
The judge decided her attention deficit hyperactivity disorder did not prevent Tara from working. Moreover, the judge did not increase her inheritance because she was to blame for the thirty-year estrangement.
Furthermore, her claim would have failed without the estrangement, “due to Tara living within her means, and having had no financial support from the Earl during her adult life. Moreover, she was capable of working, and had £20,000 to help her get started.
The Rights of the Late Earl in the Matter
The judge was at pains to stress the Earl’s testamentary freedom to leave his estate to whom he wanted. The bequest was not an “unreasonable amount” although the judge stopped short of saying what he might have thought had Tara received nothing from the Earl.
Finally, the court dismissed a secondary claim under the Human Rights Act. It “failed to see how this could be successfully argued” give the claimant was “in control of whether they work or not, and their decision not to work makes them reliant on state benefits”.
Alexa Payet concludes her article as follows: “For now adult children claims are still difficult to predict but the courts are certainly leaning towards rejecting claims”.