Two separate claims made under the Inheritance Act (Provision for Family and Dependants) 1975 have been denied on different grounds.
In the case of Sargeant v Sargeant 2018, a widow was refused permission to make a claim under the Act after the six-month period from the date of the grant of probate to the estate expired. The High Court heard that, despite her financial difficulties, the surviving spouse adhered to the provisions allocated in her husband's Will for more than ten years before issuing proceedings. She had failed to seek solutions to alter the arrangements during the intervening period.
A discretionary trust, set up in the terms of the Will to which the claimant was a beneficiary, was described as being capital rich but cash poor by the family solicitor, who was also a trustee. The court had the discretion to permit an out of time application but, on the evidence submitted, found the claimant’s case to be insufficient as she had operated within the parameters of the trust for an extended period. It was found that the claimant had been advised to seek independent legal advice by the family solicitor but had not acted upon this advice until much later.
Meanwhile, in Roberts v Fresco, the High Court considered whether a claim could be brought under the legislation by the estate of a deceased spouse. The decision upheld the principle that a claim dies with the claimant and it cannot be revived by their personal representatives.
In this case, Mrs Milbour left a legacy and life interest to her husband amounting to £225,000 from her estate which had a net value of more than £16 million. Mr Milbour died shortly after, leaving his estate of £320,000 to his daughter and granddaughter, the eventual claimants.
Their claim under the Inheritance Act (Provision for Family and Dependants) 1975, was that Mrs Milbour did not make reasonable provision for Mr Milbour, who then had insufficient time to bring a claim of his own prior to his death. Furthermore, their claim contested the principle that a claim does not survive the death of the claimant, arguing that it was superseded by Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998.
The High Court dismissed the claim on the basis that Mr Milbour’s estate did not constitute a natural or legal person under Article 1 and, on that basis, upheld the existing principle. The judge concluded that ‘there was no enforceable right at the time of death and thus no cause to action.’