As you will see from many of our previous blogs, there are two categories of Applicant under the Inheritance (Provision for family and Dependents) Act 1975 (1975 Act).
The first is spouses/long-term partners, who, if successful, are entitled to a share of the deceased estate by reference to the overall assets. The second category is children and dependents, who by contrast, if successful, are only entitled to reasonable maintenance. It is established law that the level of such maintenance should not be set at such a level so as to allow an applicant to lead a lavish lifestyle, nor should it be set at a level so as to leave the applicant impoverished.
When set in this context, the judgment in the case below is perhaps not surprising.
Shapton v Seviour
In the case of Shapton v Seviour, the deceased died, leaving a terminally ill wife, Maria Seviour, and children from a previous relationship.
The Claimant in the case was one of the daughters from the previous relationship. Mr Seviour’s estate was valued at £268,000. He left the entirety of his estate to his wife, who at that time was suffering from motor neurone disease and was on a relatively low wage working for the NHS.
A key point in respect of the preparation of the Will was that Mr Seviour was advised of the possibility of leaving his assets in Trust for his children and he chose not to do so.
Shortly after Mr Seviour’s death and following a number of disputes between Mrs Seviour and her step-children, Mrs Seviour decided to disinherit them all. This lead to an application being made by Mrs Shapton to the High Court under the 1975 Act. In this regard, Mrs Shapton claimed that she needed £75,000 of the deceased estate so that she could buy a larger home in order for her children to have a bedroom of their own and for her partner to have office space. It however came out during the Trial that Mrs Shapton enjoyed very luxurious holidays and had a combined income that was more than adequate to meet their day to day needs.
Judge Lloyd, in dismissing the application, found that Mrs Shapton:
“was motivated by the view that she was entitled as of right to one quarter of her father’s estate.”
“She clearly is not. The will is quite clear: Maria, having survived her husband, takes the estate outright. I understand that Maria has changed her will. That is her prerogative.”
As a result, Mrs Shapton was ordered to pay legal costs in excess of £50,000.
This is a prime example of how proceeding to Trial, regardless of fairly obvious weaknesses in a parties case, can lead to fairly dramatic adverse consequences for them and accordingly highlights the need to ensure that specialist legal advice is sought as early as possible.
If you have any queries in relation to the subjects discussed in this article, please get in touch with Kevin or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.