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Why inheritance claims by adult children aren’t always successful

Two adult daughters who allegedly nick-named their millionaire dad ‘the chequebook’ have failed in their attempt to bring a claim against his £2.2 million estate.

The High Court decided that Tony Shearer was perfectly entitled to make a Will leaving everything to his second wife of ten years – even if it upset his daughters, Juliet Miles, aged 40, and Lauretta Shearer, 38.

Juliet and Lauretta’s claim that their father had not made ‘reasonable financial provision’ for them under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 was dismissed because, the judge ruled, they could not show they were in financial need of maintenance.

With a significant number of claims of this kind in recent years, the case is an important reminder that not all will be successful. It also shows that the value of specialist legal advice at an early stage can’t be underestimated.

What was the background to this 1975 Inheritance Act claim?

When Tony Shearer died in 2017, he left his entire estate to his second wife, Pamela.

However, in 2008, a year after his divorce from Juliet and Lauretta’s mother, he had made generous gifts to both his daughters. Juliet received £177,000 and Lauretta got £185,000.

He had then written letters to both his daughters saying he considered this to be the end of his financial involvement with them.

Despite this, Juliet wanted money from his estate for housing and the cost of retraining to be a dog trainer and Lauretta wanted a sum of money to enable her to change her interest-only mortgage to a repayment one and to buy out her ex-husband’s share of the property she lived in.

Why did the court turn down the inheritance claim from these adult children?

The judge, Sir Julian Flaux, ruled that Mr Shearer was under no legal obligation to support an adult child. He had not behaved unreasonably, had made generous provision for his daughters before he died and made it clear he wasn’t going to give them any more money.

Sir Flaux said: “Whatever the rights and wrongs of what occurred, the most important aspect of his relationship with his daughters for present purposes is that, after he had made the gifts to them in 2008, Tony was not prepared to provide further financial assistance to them. The lifestyle choices they made were, as I have said, not dependent on the expectation of any such assistance.”

The claimants have been given permission to appeal.

What does this case tell us?

It shows that claims by adult children under the 1975 Inheritance Act, are often difficult not to mention expensive and stressful.

Every case turns on its own facts but it is fair to say that adult children who maintain themselves financially, like Juliet and Lauretta, have less chance of success than those living at home and financially dependent on a deceased parent.

Get in touch

If you want to talk about either bringing or defending a claim under the 1975 Inheritance Act, please contact Wards Solicitors’ Contentious Trusts and Probate Team, praised in the independent Legal 500 Guide for its excellent track record in dealing with high value disputes over Wills, Trusts and Probate.

 

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