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Reasonable Financial Provision – Court of Appeal Breaks New Legal Ground

VillageThe legal requirement that, when making a will, you must make reasonable provision for those who are dependent upon you generally benefits hard-up family members or loved ones. However, in a case that broke new legal ground, the Court of Appeal ruled that the principle applied to a 93-year-old man who was substantially richer than his deceased partner.

The man had no expectation that the widow with whom he had lived for almost 20 years would leave him anything in her will and she did not do so. He accepted that he had no moral claim against her estate and, given that he had greater financial resources than she did, he had left her a substantial sum in his own will.

Following her death, her daughter and sole heir asked him to leave the house where they had lived together. He refused to do so, however, and the daughter launched possession proceedings on the basis that he was a trespasser. He responded by making a claim for reasonable financial provision from the widow’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

His claim succeeded before a judge, who granted him an option to buy the property from the widow’s estate at a price of £385,000, the sum at which the daughter had had it valued. That decision was subsequently upheld by the High Court but, due to her emotional attachment to the property, the daughter mounted a second appeal. It was submitted that, although the man might wish to carry on living in the house, he had no need to do so and was well able to buy an alternative home.

In rejecting the daughter’s appeal, however, the Court of Appeal found that, although she was poorer than him, the widow had maintained the man by giving him a roof over his head until her death. She was thus obliged to make reasonable provision for him in her will and her daughter’s proper interests as heir were outweighed by the man’s objectively assessed need to remain living in the property. He was old and infirm and had no desire to leave the house, which was in the village where he was born and close to supportive neighbours and the village shop.

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