The Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 allows certain categories of claimant to bring a claim against an estate where 'reasonable financial provision' has not been made for them under a deceased’s will or intestacy.
Two very different cases under this Act have been reported in the press this week, one by a spouse against her late husband’s estate and one by a cohabitee against the estate of her late partner.
Both had very different outcomes.
In the first case, Thandi Wooldridge sought further financial provision from her late tycoon husband’s estate after he died in a helicopter crash. Ian Wooldridge left an estate of approximately £10 million including a £4.25 million manor house which he left to his widow. She also inherited other assets worth £1.6 million. She already had assets of £10 million including £1.9 million compensation for her husband’s death.
Mrs Wooldridge claimed that she needed £3.75 million more from her husband’s estate, made up of £372,000 a year to fund her jet setting lifestyle. The judge disagreed, saying that she had had enough and that reasonable financial provision had already been made for her from her late husband’s estate.
This contrasts starkly with the claim by Joy Williams against her late partner’s estate. Mrs Williams had lived with her partner, Norman Martin, for 18 years, but he never divorced his wife. Mrs Williams and Mr Martin bought a home together which they held as tenants in common. When Mr Martin died suddenly, his share of the property did not pass to Mrs Williams but to his estranged wife.
Mrs Williams brought a claim under the 1975 Act for reasonable financial provision from Mr Martin’s estate on the basis that she and Mr Martin had lived together in the same household as husband and wife for a period of at least two years ending on Mr Martin’s death. The claim was contested by Mrs Martin. The judge found in favour of Mrs Williams and awarded her the deceased’s half share in the property, commenting that it was quite plain that Mrs Williams and Mr Martin had in all material respects lived as husband and wife in a way 'in which they expected to spend the rest of their lives'.
The two cases highlight the vast spectrum of circumstances covered by the 1975 Act, with each claim being decided on its merits.