The recent High Court case of Antonio v Williams is the latest example of when the Court will be willing to overturn and essentially re-write a person’s will under the provisions of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
This is a case about a twelve-year-old boy, Ryan, who, acting through his father, Umar, made a successful application under the 1975 Act against his aunt’s relatively small estate. The Court ultimately made an order in Ryan’s favour for £50,000. But why?
Ryan had lived with his aunt, Sharon, and his grandmother, Enid, for his whole life up until Sharon died in 2016, when Ryan was six. Ryan had a tough start in life. He had been given over to social services at birth, only to have been handed back to his father, Umar, and then, on to Umar’s sister, Sharon. After Sharon’s death, Ryan moved back to live with his father, Umar, where he has been living for the last six years.
Ryan’s cousin, Jamaal (Sharon’s son) and his grandmother, Enid (Sharon and Umar’s mother) defended the claim against the twelve-year-old. They were the beneficiaries under Sharon’s estate. Ryan was named in the will, and he was intended to benefit from her ‘residuary estate’. The problem was that there was nothing in it. So, the judge went a step further and reversed the rules of survivorship.
Sharon jointly owned three properties: one with Enid, and two with Jamaal – as joint tenants. This meant that all three properties passed outside of Sharon’s estate through the rules of survivorship, leaving Ryan with nothing.
One of the properties, however, had been ear-marked to pay for Ryan’s living costs (which, had the joint tenancy been severed, could have done, as Sharon’s share of the property would have passed into her estate). Unlike the other two, this ear-marked property was not the family home of Jamaal or Enid and it was commercially let and produced no net rental income.
Under the 1975 Act, there is the power to sever a share in a joint tenancy and for this to be considered as part of the deceased’s net estate. Armed with this knowledge, Jamaal contended that the severed share should come from the jointly owned property with the grandmother.
Enid, in defending her property, suggested that Sharon had fraudulently put the property into joint names without her knowledge. In the end, the judge severed Sharon’s share in the commercially let property, jointly owned with her son Jamaal, and from which £50,000 could be taken.
The judge made this order for reasonable financial provision in Ryan’s favour on the basis that he was maintained by Sharon for his whole life, with her meeting the bulk of his everyday needs, that she had assumed responsibility for his maintenance and treated him as her child from birth, that he is still an infant without his own resources and that there is no one else who is able to provide for his maintenance costs until he leaves school.
Umar historically had not, and while Ryan is able to live with his father Umar, the judge pointed towards additional costs, which any parent faces. £50,000 was deemed to be enough to cover the costs of things like Christmas presents, school trips and books until he is older.
Whilst in this case, Sharon’s will did not leave provision for Ryan even though she clearly wanted to, it is a timely reminder that anyone who was partly or wholly maintained by you may be eligible to make a claim against your estate. It may seem relatively obvious that a child, spouse, civil partner, or person that you treat as a child could make a claim, but anyone that is ‘maintained’ by you does widen the net.
As has always been the case, a properly drafted will, along with a thorough consideration of your affairs, is paramount to ensuring that your testamentary wishes are carried out.
This article was published in ePrivateClient.