When a person dies leaving dependants, and no provision (or inadequate provision) has been made for them in the will of the deceased, it is sometimes possible for them to succeed in a claim for financial provision to be made for them under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. However, a recent case illustrates that the legislation exists to support dependants, not those who have benefited from the generosity of another.
Margot Baynes and her daughter, Hetty, made a claim against the estate of Mary Spencer Watson, who died in March 2006. Ms Baynes and Ms Spencer Watson had maintained a relationship as a couple for more than 50 years and over the years Ms Baynes and her daughter had received substantial gifts of money. In addition, a trust fund had been established for Ms Baynes some years previously. When Ms Spencer Watson died, she left her house to a charity and the residue of her estate to Ms Baynes and her other children. Hetty, however, was bequeathed a sum of £2,500 as the will noted that she had ‘already benefited’.
The first claim was brought by Margot Baynes and was based on the argument that:
- The claimant was the civil partner of the deceased;
- The claimant was a member of the deceased’s household; and
- The claimant was maintained by the deceased for two years prior to her death (this being a requirement under the Act).
The court found that as there had been no legal civil partnership, and the women's partnership was not public, Ms Baynes was not the civil partner of the deceased. In addition, as the gifts to her had taken place some years previously, she could not be said to have been maintained by the deceased. Furthermore, because Ms Baynes had her own house, it could not be said that she was a member of Ms Spencer Watson's household. The claim accordingly failed.
The daughter’s claim received even shorter shrift. Although Ms Spencer Watson had been generous to Hetty in the past and had paid off her debts, this was not ‘maintenance’ and she had no reasonable expectation that other debts would be settled in a similar way.