It is well known that claims under the Inheritance Act can be brought by disabled adult children – we frequently act for children in those circumstances, and have been very successful at obtaining funding from estates to pay for various types of therapy, additional care, days out and accommodation, for example, which can vastly improve someone’s quality of life.

Challinor v Challinor is a 2009 High Court decision concerning the provision that was to be made for a disabled adult from the estate of her late father. Elisabeth Challinor was an adult child from her father’s first marriage. She suffered from Downs syndrome and had lived at a residential home since 1991, the cost of which was largely met by social benefits and local authority top-up. The remainder of her every day expenses (including furniture, clothes, trips etc.) were paid for by the deceased and other family members.

The deceased separated from Elisabeth’s mother before marrying Sylvia Challinor. In 1991 he made a will, which left his entire estate to Mrs Challinor and appointed her as sole executor.

In 1994, the deceased made limited financial provision for his daughter by establishing a fund of £10,000 in national savings certificates (worth £15,000 in 2009 when the case was heard). He took the view that any unforeseen future requirements of Elisabeth would be paid for from his assets – either by him whilst his was alive, or his second wife after his death.  He did not change his will, but considered it a matter of moral obligation.

Because Mr Challinor did not alter his 1991 will before he died in 2006, Mrs Challinor stood to inherit his whole estate. Elisabeth’s sister, who was very concerned by this, started proceedings on behalf of Elisabeth, under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 seeking an order for money from the estate for Elisabeth to fund day-to-day living expenses, possible future accommodation costs and medical care for the remainder of her life.

At the date of his death, the deceased’s net estate was worth just over £55,000.  However, there was also jointly held property worth £530,000, of which half represented the deceased’s share. The deceased’s share was brought back into his estate. Elisabeth asked for the sum of  £275,000 to be held on  trust for her, on the basis that she may live for a further 20 years, (although it was unlikely that her life expectancy would exceed 10 years).

Under the Inheritance Act, the judge had to determine whether or not reasonable financial provision had been made for Elisabeth under the terms of her father’s will. When reaching his decision in this case, the judge appeared to focus on two points in particular:

  1. The assessment of the “financial needs that the applicant is likely to have in the foreseeable future” was not restricted to considering only those needs which it was more likely than not that Elisabeth would have. The judge said that he could and should take into account any needs that she was reasonably likely to have (but not those which were remote or merely speculative).  This could include a general provision for emergencies.
  2. The continuing moral obligations of the beneficiaries of an estate. The judge said that he had no doubt that “recognition by the beneficiary or beneficiaries of an estate of a continuing moral obligation passing to them, and the ability and willingness to satisfy it, would be relevant matters for the Court to consider under subsection (g)”. However in this case, Mrs Challinor appeared reluctant to provide for Elisabeth’s future needs, and  indicated that she needed all of the available assets for herself, so the Judge did not believe that it would be sufficient to rely on the moral obligation of Mrs Challinor to care for Elisabeth.

The judge considered that the provision made for Elisabeth under the terms of her late father’s will did not sufficiently provide for her needs beyond what would reasonably be provided by the State during her lifetime. He therefore made an order for provision from the estate of £85,000 on the terms of a discretionary trust, in addition to the £15,000 already provided by the deceased in savings certificates.

We are skilled at dealing with cases for adult children with all types of physical and mental health difficulties.  Please contact a member of our team for more advice.