Nahajec v Fowle: A Successful Claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975
The recent County Court decision of Nahajec v Fowle has seen an estranged daughter awarded £30,000 under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (the Act) after successfully claiming her father’s Will did not make reasonable provision for her.
The facts were as follows:
The Claimant was one of three children of the deceased. One sibling had already settled an earlier claim for a sum of £22,000.
The Claimant and the deceased had limited contact over the years, though the Claimant did repeatedly try to reconcile with her father. This was confirmed by the Claimant’s half brother, Scott, who made no claim under the Act.
The net estate was over £260,000 (making her award approximately 11%). Therefore, the award she was seeking was relatively modest, and she did not contend that Mr Fowle was not entitled to the bulk of the estate.
The Claimant was seeking monies to fund her studies to become a qualified veterinary nurse, which had long been her aspiration. The Judge established she did not have the financial means to do this herself, and placed reliance upon the fact she was in debt of about £6,600 due to a period of ill health
In his Will the deceased left his entire estate to his close friend and caregiver, Mr Fowle. A letter of wishes was included with the Will which reiterated that he did not wish for his children to receive any benefit.
This is the first case of its kind since the case of Ilott in which Lord Hughes stated:
“In the case of a claimant adult son well capable of living independently, something more than the qualifying relationship is needed to found a claim...”
It was thought that due to Ilott it would be very difficult for adult children to successfully make a claim under the Act, but the outcome of this case shows that it is still possible for, but that each case turns on its facts. Here, the Judge placed emphasis upon the fact the Claimant had repeatedly tried to develop a relationship with her father, and it was the deceased’s choice they were not in contact. He also placed little reliance on the letter of wishes, which arguably incorrectly stated “to my knowledge, [the Claimant was of] sufficiently independent of means”.
This case further highlights the importance of obtaining legal advice in such circumstances, as a letter of wishes is clearly not always definitive. If you need assistance in this area please contact our John Clarke who is a specialist in contentious trusts and probate.