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Granddaughter wins in disputed claims legal battle due to financial dependence

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A ballet dancer recently succeeded in her legal battle in which she sought a share of her grandmother’s £650,000 estate after she was able to prove she was financially dependent on her.  Kevin Horn, Partner in our Fareham based Private Client department, reviews the case and explains the important lessons that can be learnt for those planning for the future or those seeking to understand whether they can contest a Will.

Financial dependence

Lynsey Delaforte was a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dance in 2008 when she agreed to move into her grandmother’s home and become her full time carer.  Her grandmother, Joan Flood, had dementia and therefore needed 24-hour care.  During the seven years she cared for Mrs Flood, Miss Delaforte cooked and cleaned for her, dressed her, ensured that she ate, and managed the hospital admissions and appointments, amongst other duties.

Mrs Flood had made a Will in 2006 but failed to update it after her granddaughter moved in.  Under this Will, all of her cash and her £550,000 home in Twickenham were split between her daughter, Lynsey Delaforte’s mother, Annette Dargue, and her son, Paul Flood. 

Upon her death in 2016, Miss Delaforte therefore received nothing and so she made a claim for a share of the estate, which her uncle disputed.  Mr Flood, who the Court heard is the financially ‘comfortable’ member of the family, argued that she was not entitled to a share as she had been paid for the care she provided to his mother.

“The Judge disagreed however, stating that the care Miss Delaforte provided to her grandmother was out of ‘love and devotion’ and not for financial reward,” Kevin explains.  “There was no contract drawn up between the family members to confirm the arrangement, with Miss Delaforte living off state benefits and £100 per month during her time caring for her grandmother.   Following her death, Miss Delaforte was therefore left without an income, and it was this financial dependence which the Judge considered entitled her to a share of the estate.”

Miss Delaforte was awarded a total of £110,000 from the estate; £66,000 from her uncle’s share and £44,000 from her mother’s. 

Updating your Will 

“There are two lessons to be learnt from this case; the first is to update your Will should your circumstances change,” continues Kevin.  “Given that Miss Delaforte provided care for her grandmother for many years, it is not hard to draw the conclusion that Mrs Flood would have wanted to show her gratitude by leaving her a share of her estate.  The fact that she did not do so meant that Miss Delaforte had to embark upon the lengthy and costly, and thankfully for her successful, process of claiming a share.

“The second lesson here concerns a claimant’s entitlement to make a claim against an estate where the provision made by the Will, or the lack of any such provision, is considered not to be reasonable in the circumstances.  In this situation, Miss Delaforte was successful not because she was closely related to her grandmother, but because she was able to prove that she was dependant on her at the date of her death.  If you consider that a relative’s Will failed to make reasonable provision for you, you cannot apply for a share of their estate unless you meet the very stringent eligibility criteria set out in statute and, unless you were married to the deceased at the date of death, you will not succeed in any claim unless you can convince the Court that you need to be provided for to enable you to maintain your lifestyle.”

If you have questions about updating a Will, making a claim for a share of an estate or disputing the validity of a Will, you can find out more here or you can contact Kevin or a member of the team on 01329 222075 or email kevinhorn@warnergoodman.co.uk

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.