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Not working is your ‘lifestyle choice’ – Judge dismisses daughter’s claim on father’s estate

An unemployed woman left out of her father’s will was foiled in her bid to claim a £300,000 slice by a judge who said her decision not to work was a lifestyle choice.

Danielle Ames had her reasonable provision claim dismissed by Judge David Halpern QC who said Mr Ames’ second wife, Eileen, was elderly and ill and needed the entirety of the £1 million estate to meet her own reasonable needs.

“But he promised me…”

Danielle, who has two teenage children, claimed her father, Michael, had promised her “it will all be yours one day”.

With only her partner’s £800 monthly wage plus benefits to live on, Danielle said she was dependent on her father and deserved the payout of around £300,000 as ‘reasonable provision’ from his estate.

The court heard how Michael Ames had been generous to his daughter over the years including setting her up in a picture framing business in the 1990s. But she had given this up in 2003 when she became a mother.

She said she had idolised him and was shocked to learn he had left everything to his 63-year-old wife, his partner of more than 30 years, on his death in 2013.

Exaggeration

Judge Halpern, however, claimed she had exaggerated the strength of her relationship with her father and told the Central London County Court: “I conclude that her lack of employment is a lifestyle choice. That alone is sufficient to defeat her claim.”

This was despite deciding that Eileen’s description of the relationship between Danielle and Michael as ‘rocky and distant’ was also an exaggeration.

Ruling

Ruling that Danielle had no disability and was fit for work whereas Eileen was past working age, unwell and certainly not living the high life, Judge Halpern said: “It is therefore clear that Eileen requires the entirety of the estate to meet her reasonable needs while Danielle has not satisfied me as to her own needs and resources.”

Costs

Danielle Ames is now liable for the costs of the case – estimated at £85,000 for Eileen and £47,000 for herself. She was given 14 days to make a down payment of £34,000.

From a legal standpoint….

  • What is the right to reasonable financial provision? Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975, a person can challenge a will on the basis it did not make reasonable financial provision for them – either the amount of inheritance or a challenge to the fact that they did not receive anything.
  • Who can claim reasonable financial provision? The potential claimants include current or former spouses and civil partners who have not remarried; children and cohabitants of the deceased, including people who were treated as though they were a child of the deceased and any people who at the time of death were wholly or partly maintained by the deceased.
  • How do you claim reasonable financial provision? Firstly, consult an experienced wills and probate lawyer. Claims for reasonable financial provision can be pretty complex. You will need to apply to a court, which will hear the case and make orders.

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