Adult Child Loses Claim for Reasonable Financial Provision

Adult child loses claim for reasonable financial provision against her late father’s estate

If you are the child of someone who has died and you feel they did not make reasonable financial provision for you in their Will (or in the case of intestacy), you may be able to make a claim against their estate. You can do this under The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Act”).

Under Section 3 of the Act, the court will consider a variety of factors when determining whether or not reasonable financial provision has been made: the financial resources and needs of the applicant, any other applicant, and the beneficiaries; any obligations and responsibilities of the deceased towards any applicant and any beneficiary; the size and nature of the estate; any physical or mental disability of any applicant or beneficiary; or any other matter, including conduct, which the court may consider relevant.

The recent case of Wellesley v Wellesley & Ors [2019] EWHC 11 (Ch) is an interesting example of how the factors are considered in claims made under the Act. Lady Tara Wellesley, the estranged daughter of the seventh Earl Cowley, had not seen her father for 26 years when he died in 2016. Although his estate was worth £1.3 million, he left the majority of his estate to his son Graham, provided an income for his fourth wife, Dowager Countess Carola, and divided the remainder between his young step-daughters, Heidi Iratcabal, Hillary Ryan, Sarah Mosier and Johanna Wellesley.

Lady Tara inherited just £20,000 and as a result made a claim against her father’s estate under the Act so that she could buy her council house and begin a career in the art world. Lady Tara volunteers at the Tate and for a charity but said her ADHD prevents her from working as it makes her timekeeping poor and she has had to claim benefits. Her claim was based on the fact that she was forced out of her family by her father’s second wife when she was young. Lady Tara also raised two public policy arguments; which were both dismissed. She claimed that there was a breach of the Human Rights Act 1998 and that there should be a public policy of private means replacing state benefits. Unfortunately for Lady Tara, Judge John Linwood found that she could support herself financially and she was solely at fault for the estrangement due to her “disruptive behaviour” and lifestyle of “drink, drugs and bohemia”.  

This case demonstrates that claims by adult children under the Act are unlikely to succeed especially if they did not live at home and were not financially dependent on their parent. However, each decision is fact-specific and will also depend on the child’s conduct towards their parent. You should think very carefully when making your Will if you decide not to provide for one of your children and it is helpful for potential future claims if you write a letter explaining the reasons for your decision.

To discuss any of the issues raised above, please contact a member of the Private Client team on 01384 410410.