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HCR Law Events

21 June 2022

What will a court consider when assessing a claim under The Inheritance Act?

The recent judgment of Her Honour Judge Evans-Gordon (“HHJ Evans-Gordon”) in the case of Jenine Batstone (“the claimant”) v Samantha Ann Julia Batstone (“the defendant”) looked at the claimant’s income needs alongside the moral (and other) obligations which would warrant an award under the Act.

Background

The claim was brought under Section 1(1)(c) of the 1975 Act. This allows a child of a deceased to make a claim against the estate when the child feels as though the will in question has not made reasonable provision for them.

The claim was brought against the estate of John Nicholas Batstone (“the deceased”) who died on 31 March 2019, leaving a will dated 2 December 2017 (“the will”).

The will said the deceased’s 50% life interest in the property which he shared with the defendant, was to pass to the defendant. The defendant’s sons will then have equal shares upon the defendant’s death. The deceased’s 50% life interest was valued at £225,000. The will also said that the remainder of the deceased’s estate – cash and shares with a net value of £101,121 – was left to the defendant.

The claim

The claimant is the adult daughter of the deceased. She argued that she was entitled to a share of the deceased’s estate based on her circumstances and needs, coupled with the deceased owing her a moral obligation as “he abandoned her as a young girl and left her in poor financial circumstances all her life.”

The claimant claimed a total of £136,562. This comprised £100,000 in respect of maintenance for life, £16,562 to settle debts, £10,000 to purchase a new car and £10,000 to purchase various items for her house.

The defendant argued that the claimant should receive nothing from the estate as she has adequate income to meet her needs, she had been estranged from the deceased for some 16 years, and that the deceased did not maintain the claimant as an adult and owed her no other duty or obligation to make a provision for her.

Decision  

Within the judgment of HHJ Evans-Gordon the following points were raised:

The claimant’s income needs:

From the evidence, the claimant has an equivalent gross salary which exceeds the national average. Her income comfortably exceeds her reasonable outgoings, including the repayment of her debts. The judge also pointed out the claimant’s “excessive” outgoings and reiterated that the statutory test is ‘reasonable maintenance’ and not to meet any outgoings no matter how unreasonable.

It was concluded that the claimant is an adult who has been living independently for many years and had sufficient income to meet her reasonable needs. Her difficulties were caused by her extravagance.

Any moral or other obligation owed by the deceased to the claimant: 

The deceased did not contribute financially or otherwise to the claimant’s life for some 15 years. It was also pointed out that the claimant made no attempt to contact the deceased until two days before his death.

HHJ Evans-Gordon concluded that the deceased’s conduct towards the claimant does not give rise to any moral or other obligation which would warrant an award under the 1975 Act.

Conclusion  

The Judgment shows the focus of the court when evaluating the claimant’s income needs and how the court can and will discredit any extravagant or excessive needs.

Furthermore, when assessing any moral or other obligation which would warrant an award under the 1975 Act, the conduct of both the deceased and the claimant can and will be looked at. Here, the deceased leaving the claimant when she was young did not amount to a moral (or other) obligation warranting an award under the 1975 Act.

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About the Author
Jacqueline Morrison, Chartered Legal Executive (FCILEx)

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