The Practical Lawyer


Wills – dependency claims

A welcome ruling has clarified the meaning of ‘child of the family’ for the purposes of a claim against an estate for reasonable financial provision under the I(PFD)A.

The fact that the testator (T) had addressed the claimant as ‘HD’ (‘honorary daughter’) was not sufficient on the facts to make her a ‘child of the family’.

The claimant and her husband had been T’s neighbours. T was reclusive, and without family and was 20 years older than her. They moved away, but their contact continued: she sent him various useful items, visited him, and helped him in other notable ways. Furthermore, T’s letters demonstrated his appreciation for her, referring to her as ‘HD’.

On T’s death, she was left nothing in his will, so she made a claim on the basis that she was a ‘child of the family’. To prove such a claim, she had to show there was a family, of which she and T were both part; and that T treated her as his daughter in that family.

The claim failed: being kind and caring to T was not enough, nor was being affectionately called ‘HD’ in letters. The claimant had to show T had assumed the role of parent to her. However, T had never reciprocated, or sent her presents as a father would. Also, she had no key to T’s house – which was in a terrible and unsafe condition with no central heating or hot water – things she would have been concerned about had she been a caring daughter.

Also relevant was the fact that T could have easily changed his will had he wanted her to benefit.

Wells v Chorus Law (unreported).


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