A recent decision of the court making an ‘award’ from a deceased persons’ estate, on an application for reasonable financial provision under the 1975 Act, has surprised many. Why? Because the applicant was not in financial need at all. In fact he was very wealthy.
Mr W was 91 years of age and very wealthy indeed. Many years ago he had begun a relationship with Mrs B, and in the mid 1990’s he had moved in to her home where they lived together as man and wife. The couple never married and Mrs B remained the sole owner of the property.
Mrs B died in May 2014. She had one daughter from a previous relationship (Mrs L) who inherited Mrs B’s entire estate (including the property). This left Mr W homeless, but as he had plenty of cash to buy somewhere else to live, how could it be said that Mrs B should have provided for him in her Will?
In deciding that Mrs B’s Will did not make reasonable financial provision for Mr W’s maintenance, the court ordered that Mr B may buy the property from Mrs L for £385,000, which was £45,000 above its value. Thus – the court granted Mr W an ‘option’ by way of reasonable financial provision and allowed Mrs L to benefit from an inflated sale price.
Mr B’s financial circumstances were such that he could have easily purchased another property in which to live, but the court took much more than his financial circumstances alone into consideration. Because of Mr B’s age and poor health, moving home would have been traumatic for him. Further, he had close neighbours upon whom he relied, such as a doctor.
This case illustrates some important points about the 1975 Act. Firstly, reasonable provision under the legislation is not confined to cash, and some categories of applicant need not necessarily be in financial need. Also, be aware that the court’s discretion is wide and is similarly not limited to making awards of cash.
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