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What Factors Make A Successful Child Inheritance Claim

Posted: Friday, 4 January 2019 @ 13:43

As was recently highlighted in the Telegraph, George Martin's will has led to a family rift with his two children Giles and Lucie from his second marriage, who now locked in a row with his children from his first marriage over his £1 million estate. 

According to the Telegraph when he died last March at the age of 90, his two children from his first marriage to Jean “Sheena” Chisholm might have assumed that they were in for a windfall. How wrong it now seems they were.

It has recently emerged that Martin decided to leave only £325,000 – the maximum amount before inheritance tax is paid - to be shared between his daughter Alexis, his former chauffeur, his secretary, three grandchildren and a niece. 

His estranged older son, Greg, with whom he had a troubled relationship, has not been left a single penny.

The 'Fifth Beetle' George Martin died aged 90.

The rest of his estate – an undisclosed amount will go to Judy Lockhart-Smith, with whom he went with after 14 years of married life.

Martin also ensured in his will that if the 87-year-old Lockhart-Smith died before him, her entire share would have gone to her children instead of his own.

The warring factions between both sides of the family has now spiralled into a bitter and apparently irreconcilable rift, which could yet reportedly end up picked over in court.

All this is very painful for the parties involved and potentially expensive if lawyers are acting. Inheritance disputes are an expensive business.

It is worth considering the following.

Just because you are the natural child of someone who is apparently wealthy does not entitle you to inherit anything from the estate.

The law underpins testatmentary freedom. E.g the right of Jo Bloggs/Wealthy Person/George Martin to do whatever he or she likes with his or her financial affairs when he or she passes away.

Fundamentally if a close relative has not left anything to you, there are two ways to go. The more speculative way is to attack the validity of the will by say proving undue influence(say “coercion ” of the testatator) or some other flaw in the way the will is executed.

This can happen particularly if the will was done without legal input. I worked with the consumer brand, Which? and found myself advising members who had come across a number wills which were not properly executed.  

If you do not prove some kind of flaw in the will preparation process or you want additional legal ammunition you can go another route and that centres on an inheritance claim under the trusted Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

In the case of George Martin a child of the deceased can make a claim under section 1(1) paragraph c which makes the child an eligible Claimant. All well and good. The next consideration is has the testator(Mr Martin) made reasonable provision for the Claimant(the children) and the test is an objective one.

The decision is based on facts known at the time of the application and not known at date of death. The guidelines for all applicants is as follows – Financial – balancing the resources and needs  of all persons with a  claim on the estate, moral obligations of all claimants, the size and nature of the estate, mental or physical disability and any other matter the Court considers relevant.

There are other specific dynamics at play but the key case law here is focused on the obligation of Mr Martin to provide for his children. Historically the courts have shown a reluctance to make awards for able bodied Claimants such as in Re Coventry.

This has been undermined by the case of Ilott v Miston which gives hope to adult Claimants though that case is under appeal.  In this case the award to the Claimant was given by assessing provisions in section 3 of the IPFDA 1975 and concluding that no provision was unreasonable given the destitute situation of the daughter.