If someone upon whom you depend financially dies leaving you nothing in his or her will, judges have the power to ensure that you do not go empty-handed. As a High Court case showed, however, that power will only be exercised in your favour if your need for support is both pressing and genuine.
The case concerned a delivery driver whose modest lifestyle had been boosted by a £450,000 lottery win some years before his death from a brain tumour. By his will, he left his entire estate – valued at £268,000 – to his second wife. His half share of the marital home represented about 80 per cent of that sum.
Following his death, his daughter by his first marriage launched proceedings under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 seeking reasonable provision from his estate. A married mother of two, she argued that she and her family were in need of financial support in that they were saddled with substantial debts and were living in a house that was too small for them.
Rejecting her claim as hopeless, however, the Court noted that she appeared to be labouring under the mistaken assumption that she was entitled to a share of her father's estate come what may. She and her husband had enjoyed several luxury holidays and were living comfortably. Their combined income was more than sufficient to meet their day-to-day needs and her bank and credit card debts were self-inflicted.
Her father's widow, by contrast, was wheelchair dependent due to ever-worsening motor neurone disease and required every penny of her inheritance to maintain her independence and live out her remaining years in dignity and comfort. Her savings were modest and any award in the daughter's favour would require her to sell or mortgage the home where she was looked after by a live-in carer.