Claim against an estate for greater provision

21 November 2023

Georgia Stott, a Senior Associate, and specialist in contesting wills and contentious probate, advised Mrs J, one of two residuary beneficiaries of the estate of her late aunt. Her fellow residuary beneficiary was her sister. They were also both named as executors of the estate.

One of their cousins, who had moved abroad some years prior, made a claim against the estate for greater provision, on the basis that she received only a small cash legacy.

The claimant’s claim did not start out as a claim for greater provision though. Initially she tried to argue that the will was invalid. However, she never provided any evidence in support of this claim and eventually conceded the point. Despite doing so, it was some months before she removed the caveat she had lodged against the estate, preventing our client and her sister from obtaining a grant of probate.

Once she was set on pursuing her claim for greater provision from the estate, she of course had to evidence why she should receive greater provision. As she was a child of the deceased, her claim would be based on her needs as opposed to what she (or anyone else) deemed fair. She argued that she was unable to meet her needs, and that owing to a medical condition she required provision to meet her future needs. However, on reviewing her financial evidence, it was clear that with some very minor adjustments, she had sufficient income to meet her needs. Also, the evidence she provided in support of her medical condition (which she said prevented her from working) was very limited, and did not contain a formal diagnosis.

With the above in mind, we considered very carefully with our client whether she should agree to mediate. Our concern was that if she was to agree, she would be doing so in circumstances where the Claimant had failed to provide evidence that she had a claim. Of course, refusing to mediate is not something to be done lightly as the courts expect parties to try and resolve matters between themselves wherever possible. That said, case law provides precedent for it being reasonable to refuse to mediate in circumstances where there is a legitimate reason for doing so, such as there being little or no prospect of success on the other side’s part.

In the end we agreed that we would mediate, but only if the claimant provided evidence in support of her claim. She failed to do so, therefore we said we would not mediate. As a result, the claimant issued her claim.

Mrs J, was also entitled to seek reasonable provision from the estate as her aunt had assisted her with the payment of her rent. She was not a woman of great means, and had her own health conditions to deal with. As such, she raised a ‘needs based’ defence to the claim, arguing that she needed her inheritance.

In the end our client’s sister was keen to make an offer as she was expecting a baby and wanted the matter resolved. Our client agreed to this, to support her sister. Terms were agreed without the need for a hearing, which saw our client retain the majority of her inheritance, and without the uncertainty of taking a matter all the way to trial.

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