Lottery winner not bound by promise

Posted: 19th May 2017

CashPromises are just promises and do not generally have the force of contract – but if you rely on another's word to your detriment it can be legally binding. That was precisely the issue in one case in which the son of a lottery winner claimed that his father had promised him that he would never go short of money.

The father and his wife had won more than £100 million on the lottery and had since given away about £30 million to family, friends and charity. His son and the latter’s civil partner (the couple) had received almost £1.6 million before the supply of money was cut off following a bitter family rift.

The son argued that his father had promised him soon after the win that he would always be looked after financially. The couple said that they had made a number of important life choices, including changes in their career paths, in reliance on the father’s word. It was submitted that the father was thus under a binding obligation to provide the couple with financial support indefinitely.

In dismissing the couple’s claim, however, a judge noted their astonishing level of expenditure before the source of money ran dry. The context of the case was that of a father bailing out his profligate son. Although the father had doled out cash for two years after his win, he had never promised the couple that the supply of money would be endless. There was no rational basis on which the couple could have concluded that they could call upon the father for more money whenever they wished.