The High Court has ruled that a claim for ‘reasonable financial provision’ out of the estate of the deceased can succeed even where the applicant is financially independent (Financial Adviser Advice) .

In the recent ‘reasonable provision’ case of Lewis v Warner 2016 EWHC 1787 Ch, the High Court was required to consider whether a will could have failed to make reasonable provision for an applicant who is in no financial need. The facts of the case were as follows (Financial Adviser Advice) .

Stanley Warner had been living with Audrey Blackwell in her house in the village of Twyning Green in Gloucestershire since 1995, when he was 70 and she was 62. Mrs Blackwell died in May 2014 when Mr Warner was 91, leaving her entire estate to her daughter.

Over the years, Mr Warner’s health had deteriorated and he had grown somewhat reliant on his neighbours (one of whom was a doctor) for friendship and medical support over the 20 years that he had been living in the house owned by Mrs Blackwell. Although Mr Warner was wealthy in his own right, he did not want to leave his home and so when Mrs Blackwell’s daughter, Lynn Lewis, sought to evict him in order to sell the house (that now belonged to her); he responded by making a claim for reasonable provision out of the deceased’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. His claim was founded only on the fact that he would be ‘very unhappy and very stressed’ if he had to move from the property.

In the first instance, the County Court recorder admitted Mr Warner’s claim on the grounds that the maintenance of ‘a roof over the head of an applicant for 20 years clearly came within the definition of ‘maintenance’ and that its removal, by there being no provision for the continuance of the same, meant that the will failed to make reasonable financial provision for Mr Warner. However, in view of Mr Warner’s financial position, the solution put forward was for Mr Warner to buy the house from his former cohabitant’s estate for £385,000 (the highest market value estimate).

Mrs Lewis and her husband appealed this decision on the grounds that the Recorder had both ‘come to ‘utterly wrong conclusions’ and had ‘exceeded his powers’ by making an order that he had no authority to make.

However, the appeal was dismissed by the High Court on the basis that ‘maintenance’ need not necessarily mean a transfer of money from the estate to the claimant and moreover that the Recorder was entitled to decide that Mrs Blackwell’s will failed to make reasonable provision for Mr Warner, notwithstanding his financial means. Accordingly, Mr Warner was entitled to buy the house for £385,000.

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