Brownlie v Four Seasons Group
In recent years the courts have seen a significant number of claims under the 1975 Act bought by adult children. This week it has been widely reported that the two adult daughters of Tony Shearer, a high profile banker and finance governor of a well-known public school, have failed in their attempt to bring a claim against their late father’s £2.2 million estate. Mr Shearer made no provision in his estate for his daughters leaving the majority of his wealth to his second wife.
The adult daughters (from Mr Shearer’s first marriage) are said to have argued that their relationship with their father had broken down as a consequence of his relationship with their step-mother but that irrespective he had always looked after them financially and that if successful in their claim the money received would be used for housing. Their stepmother told the court that Mr Shearer did not always enjoy seeing his daughters because they always asked him for money and that they had hurtfully referred to him as “the chequebook” when they were younger.
Mr Justice Flaux dismissed the claim having agreed with counsel for the stepmother that the two daughters were “imbued with and influenced by a sense of entitlement” and concluded that Mr Shearer had no obligations or responsibilities towards his daughters at the time that he died and that he had gifted them a generous sum of money several years previously which they were able to invest in property. He said “Whatever the rights and wrongs of what occurred, the most important aspect of [Mr Shearer’s] relationship with his daughters for present purposes is that, after he had made the gifts to them in 2008, [he] was not prepared to provide further financial assistance to them. The lifestyle choices they made were…. not dependent upon the expectation of any such assistance”.
Under Section 3 of the 1975 Act, the court will take into account the following factors when deciding whether a reasonable financial provision has been granted for a claimant:
a) the financial resources and needs of the applicant;
b) the financial resources and needs of any other applicant;
c) the financial resources and needs of the beneficiaries;
d) any obligations and responsibilities of the deceased towards any applicant and any beneficiary;
e) the size and nature of the estate of the deceased;
f) any physical or mental disability of any applicant or beneficiary;
g) any other matter, including conduct, which the court may consider relevant.
In recent years claims bought by adult children have seen varying levels of success (the door having been opened by the infamous case of Illot v Mitson ). However, the reality is that claims by adult children under the 1975 Act are difficult. In England and Wales, you have the right to leave your estate to whomever you chose, and if an individual elects not to leave their children anything at all in their will, the general expectation is that the deceased’s wishes would be largely upheld. Adult children living at home and those that were financially dependent on a deceased parent will always stand a much better chance of success under the Act than those that maintain themselves financially. Any claim will be fact sensitive in every case and will depend on the factors outlined in Section 3.
We act for trustees, executors, personal representatives, protectors, beneficiaries, charities and for individuals in a wide range of disputes involving estates, trusts and land.
If you require expert legal advice relating to any of the topics raised in this blog, please contact the author Katherine Pymont, or a member of our Wills, Trusts and Inheritance Disputes team.
Further information is available on our Wills, Trusts and Inheritance Disputes web pages.
Katherine Pymont is a Senior Associate in our Dispute Resolution team. She specialises in Wills, Trusts and Inheritance Disputes. Katherine's experience includes challenging the validity of wills (including claims for lack of testamentary capacity, want of knowledge and approval, fraud, forgery and undue influence), claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, removal of executors and trustees, breach of trust claims, fraud cases involving trust structures and professional negligence claims relating to wills and trusts.
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