Specialist inheritance claim lawyer wins contested trial
The head of our contentious probate department, Naomi Ireson, recently notched up another success at trial when she successfully represented a defendant in a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975.
The claim had been brought against the estate of Naomi’s client’s father. The claimant was her client’s brother.
Naomi’s client had inherited the bulk of his father’s estate, save for a small legacy which was due to be paid to his brother.
Her client had been living in property belonging to his father, which was the main asset in his estate. The claimant was by contrast living in social housing. He was reliant on state benefits for income (due to disabilities), but also had significant pension and capital assets, including a valuable sovereign collection. Despite this, he claimed a financial need for the house that Naomi’s client was living in .
Naomi explained to the claimant and his solicitors that her client would be made homeless if the property had to be sold, while the claimant himself did not have any housing needs of his own. Unfortunately the claimant and his lawyers refused to accept our arguments and, somewhat naively they issued court proceedings against Naomi’s client.
Naomi defended the claim. She attempted to resolve the case out of court, but the claimant insisted on continuing with it and ultimately it went to a fully contested trial.
The claimant lost his case in court as Naomi had warned. Because her client, as the defendant, was successful at trial he was awarded his costs — the judge ordering these to be paid by the claimant.
As Naomi had pointed out to the claimant’s solicitors since the start of the dispute, their client was simply unable to establish a need for maintenance from the estate, which is a requirement under the Inheritance Act. At trial the Judge reiterated that the purpose of the Inheritance Act is not to give the power to the court to rewrite a Will due to unfairness, but to deal with cases of financial need, which in this case the claimant was unable to establish.
The claim was therefore dismissed and Naomi’s client won the right to remain living in the property.