On 18th July 2017, the first case to test the waters after the Supreme Court case of Ilott v The Blue Cross and others (2017), was handed down in Leeds County Court.
In Nahajec v Fowle (2017) the deceased left his entire estate (approximately £266,000) to a friend. He also expressly excluded his 3 children in a note stating that he had had no contact with them for over 18 years and that each was financially independent. A claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 was made by his daughter and was the subject of these proceedings.
Incidentally his son, who was not well and disabled, also made a claim but that was settled out of court for £22,000.
It was accepted by Ms Nahajec that she was estranged from her father, but she argued that attempts were made by her to re-kindle their relationship (and did do so for 3 years), and the estrangement was entirely his doing.
The court on a balance of probability accepted the evidence of Ms Nahajec over the written note from her father.
As such she was awarded a sum of £30,000 which reflected “the capitalised cost of maintenance for a reasonable time going forward to take into account the possibility albeit contingent, of the claimant undertaking a course which ultimately results in her becoming a veterinary nurse.”
It is peculiar that Ms Nahajec’s claim went all the way to trial given that legal costs on both sides could easily dwarf the sum actually awarded.
In conclusion, whilst adult children claims are difficult to bring, they are not dead in the water, and estrangement in itself is not a bar to getting something (albeit in both cases only about 10% of the estate) rather than nothing.
Therefore anyone wishing to exclude certain categories of potential claimants from their Will should seek legal advice about how to do so to minimise the risk of a claim to the estate. Those wishing to make a claim should have compelling evidence of the relationship with the deceased (which gives rise to an obligation to provide) and their financial circumstances (so as to ascertain what reasonable financial provision should be made).