Reasonable financial provision

Posted: 5th January 2018

FamilyThe legal requirement that, when making a will, you must make reasonable provision for those who are dependent upon you generally benefits hard-up family members or loved ones.

However, in a case that broke new legal ground, the Court of Appeal ruled that the principle applied to 93-year-old Thomas Warner who was substantially richer than his deceased partner, Mrs Blackwell.

Mr Warner had no expectation that the widow, Mrs Blackwell, with whom he had lived for almost 20 years would leave him anything in her will and she did not do so.

He accepted that he had no moral claim against her estate and, given that he had greater financial resources than she did, he had left her a substantial sum in his own will.

Following her death, her daughter, Mrs Lewis, and sole heir asked him to leave the house where they had lived together. Mr Warner refused to do so, however, and Mrs Blackwell's daughter launched possession proceedings on the basis that he was a trespasser.

Mr Warner responded by making a claim for reasonable financial provision from the widow’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

His claim succeeded before a judge, who granted him an option to buy the property from the Mrs Blackwell’s estate at a price of £385,000, the sum at which Mrs Lewis had had it valued. That decision was subsequently upheld by the High Court but, due to her emotional attachment to the property, Mrs Lewis mounted a second appeal. It was submitted that, although Mr Warner might wish to carry on living in the house, he had no need to do so and was well able to buy an alternative home.

In rejecting her appeal, however, the Court of Appeal found that, although she was poorer than him, the widow had maintained Mr Warner by giving him a roof over his head until her death. She was thus obliged to make reasonable provision for him in her will and her daughter’s proper interests as heir were outweighed by the man’s objectively assessed need to remain living in the property. Mr Warner was old and infirm and had no desire to leave the house, which was in the village where he was born and close to supportive neighbours and the village shop.