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The dangers of concluding that estranged children who have been disinherited will have no claim against a deceased person's estate were made very clear after a widely reported case decided last year. They have again been highlighted in a recent case in Leeds County Court, in which the daughter of a man who had been estranged from her for many years successfully brought a claim for a share of his estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, alleging that 'reasonable financial provision' had not been made for her in his will.
The man's children had had no contact with him for many years. In a note he left for his executor, he justified his failure to give them anything by saying, "I have not seen or heard from any of my children in the last 18 years and I do not believe they have any interest in me or my welfare. All of my children are of independent means and have or have had their own life and family and are, to my knowledge, sufficiently independent of means not to require any provision from me."
He specifically asked his friend to 'respect my wishes and ensure that they receive no benefit whatsoever' under his will.
The man had been married twice. He died in 2015 and left his £265,000 estate to his friend. A half-brother of the daughter, who is unable to work by virtue of disability and sickness, made a claim under the Act which was settled by a payment of £22,000.
The daughter had had no contact with her father since 1996, other than for a period from 2007 to 2009 after which they were again estranged. The man did not respond to any communications from her, even putting the phone down on her when she rang him to tell him her mother (his ex-wife) had died. She claimed she had made efforts to rekindle their relationship, which were unsuccessful.
The extent of the rupture between father and daughter is shown by her own evidence that except for the period mentioned, the deceased was 'not there' for her. She has had to make her own way in the world without any assistance from him either financially or otherwise.
The daughter lives on a low salary and gave evidence that her outgoings exceed her income by about £300 per month and that she wishes to undertake additional education to qualify as a veterinary nurse.
On the side of the executor and beneficiary under the will, the position is further complicated. He has also had financial issues and used the money he inherited to clear debts. In settling the claim from the half-brother, he had to borrow again and gave evidence that he would need to borrow further to settle any claim by the daughter.
However, the court awarded the daughter £30,000 from the estate.