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What Causes a Claim by an Adult Child Under The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 To Fail?

Will claim Solicitors, specialist no win no fee will dispute and will contest Solicitors, discuss the likely causes of the failure of a recent claim by an adult child under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975

Why are claims for financial provision by adult children under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 so difficult?

The problem is this; adult children are not “favoured applicants” under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Inheritance Act”) because, in general, they are likely to have managed by themselves for many years and are unlikely to be dependent on their parents. Moreover, the purpose of the Act is not to “act” as a conduit for challenging the validity of a Will. In England and Wales there is complete freedom of testamentary disposition. The Inheritance Act is really intended only as an emergency fallback in cases of gross unfairness. Obvious examples of this are where a husband disinherits his dependent wife of many years and/or his young children.

In our earlier blog, we highlighted then why adult children were not “special” by reference to these issues:

What Is So Special About Adult Children? – Will Claim Solicitors

Nevertheless, the case law confirms the right of adult children to bring a claim. As per Lady Hale in Ilott v The Blue Cross and others [2017] UKSC 17:

Ilott (Respondent) v The Blue Cross and others (Appellants) – The Supreme Court

At paragraph 59:

59. The Commission considered limiting adult claims to children who were actually dependent on the deceased when he died, but rejected that because: “this would rule out a claim against the estate of a parent who had unreasonably refused to support an adult child during his life time where it would have been morally appropriate to provide such support. Moreover an adult child, who is fully self-supporting at the time of the parent’s death, may quite suddenly thereafter cease to be so.” Hence their final recommendation was to remove all age limits “leaving the court to distinguish between the deserving and the undeserving” (para 76). But the Commission gave no further guidance as to who should be thought deserving and who should not.

The case of Lettuce v Lettuce and others [2022] EWHC 3013 (Ch)

This case is reported in Bailii at the following:

Lettice v Lettice & Ors [2022] EWHC 3013 (Ch) (29 November 2022) (bailii.org)

It is a claim by an adult child, Anne Lettuce, who whilst inheriting approximately £109,000 from her late mother’s estate of about £900,000, claimed it was insufficient for her reasonable financial needs. Whilst she had limited resources (and income), the fact that she received this much proved insurmountable in the end and her claim was dismissed.

She had then a reasonably high hurdle to start with.

The claim seems to have started badly and gone from bad to worse. Her Solicitors had applied successfully to come off the record prior to the trial suggesting all may have not been well. Very bravely she handled the trial in person but her evidence appears to have been disastrous – a summary appears at paragraphs 16 and 17 which we have copied verbatim below:

Anne’s evidence

16. Anne was not a satisfactory witness. She failed to provide answers or explanations when it did not suit her to do so and admitted that in certain respects her witness statements were wrong. I cannot accept Anne’s evidence unless it is either inherently plausible or independently corroborated.

17. The particularly unsatisfactory aspects of her evidence were that: (i) neither of Anne’s witness statements dealt with her status as an ordained minister (of a church of which she was unable or unwilling to provide the name) or with the amount of her time that she devotes to following that vocation. Despite being asked, more than once, at what time of day she would leave the Property to pursue her vocational activities Anne would not give either counsel or me a clear answer; (ii) Anne claimed in her first statement to have provided “round the clock care” for Margaret for 17 years and claimed the necessity for providing care “full time” was incompatible with her having a job. Anne’s own second statement acknowledged that her siblings shared in providing such care and support as Margaret actually required from time to time. Anne gave no realistic account of what full time care meant either in her witness statements or orally. In evidence Anne at one stage retorted to counsel “you make it sound as though I needed to be there 24 hours a day. Nobody stays in a house 24 hours a day. …. I have a life to live.” (iii) in her first witness statement Anne stated “my financial dependence on my mother was a direct consequence of my mother’s wish for me to give up work and care for her” and “my mother therefore had a very high degree of responsibility to take care of my future needs”. When cross-examined she said that neither statement was true. (iv) Anne acknowledged that the schedule of her claimed financial needs exhibited to her first statement was in some respects the product of her then solicitor’s suggestions as to what she might be able to claim in the current proceedings; (v) Anne’s evidence about her finances was not straightforward or complete. Anne did not explain what income she received in the years between about 2002 and reaching state pension age in 2014. So far as regular deposits of cash were made into her bank account for the only year for which her bank statements were disclosed, her explanation was not

In summary, she appears to have been capable of work for many years and she failed to satisfactorily explain why she couldn’t work. Even worse, she appears to have been receiving unexplained sums of cash (suggesting she was getting paid for something). She was unable to prove she was financially dependent on her mother and/or that she provided her mother with the care she claimed she did. Moreover, whilst she had been living with her mother for a period of time, the papers appeared to indicate her mother had been trying to evict her.

Conclusion

The case of Lettuce reveals the risky and difficult nature of these claims which require a clear-eyed and honest approach to them coupled with realistic expectations on the part of the applicant. They simply cannot be relied upon as a means of overturning the wishes of the testator by his Will and to impose “fairer” terms. If a compromise solution is available prior to a trial then it must be taken.

If you consider any of these facts and matters are of interest, are likely to apply to you, or you would like to ask us for more information about our no win no fee arrangement, or you simply want us to assess your claim, then please do not hesitate to contact us for a confidential no strings chat and/or visit us at www.willclaim.com.

We provide details about our no win no fee arrangements at https://www.willclaim.com/nowin-no-fee/.

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