Posted by Mike Muston, Senior Associate
When enough is enough
This week the Telegraph reported the recent decision in the estate of Ian Wooldridge. It is believed that, possibly for the first time, a claim by a widow under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 has been dismissed by the court without any award being made.
Facts of the case
Mr Wooldridge sadly died following a helicopter accident in 2010. He amassed substantial wealth as a successful businessman in the construction industry, having initially established a company with his brother in 1978.
At the time of his death, Mr Wooldridge was married to Thandi, with whom he had a son, Rhett. Mr Wooldridge also had another son, Charlie, from a previous relationship.
By his Will, Mr Wooldridge left to Thandi their matrimonial home (valued at around £4m at the time of trial), together with the benefit of several life assurance policies worth around £1.6m. Mr Wooldridge had divided his business interests between his two sons. Thandi and the sons had also been compensated following a successful compensation claim arising in relation to the helicopter crash, with Thandi alone receiving almost £2m from this.
However, Thandi claimed that she had not received enough from the estate to support her luxury lifestyle. She claimed that she needed £372,000 a year to meet her expenditure needs.
The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 enables certain family members and dependants of a deceased person to make a claim against an estate where they feel they have not received enough to meet their reasonable financial needs.
In cases of spouses, their position will be considered as if the marriage had ended by divorce, rather than death. As such, the court will take into account various divorce principles, such as equal sharing. The court will also, however, take into account various other factors, such as any assets a claimant already owns.
In dismissing the claim, Judge Walden-Smith concluded that Thandi “has enough”. Thandi was found already to have assets of £10m in her own right, some of which could be invested to address any reasonable income needs she claimed to have.
While the court was less than convinced by Thandi’s alleged expenditure needs, it concluded that making an award to Thandi was likely to see assets relating to the business interests sold off, to the detriment of Charlie and Rhett. The court held that such an outcome could not be justified in the circumstances and refused to increase the provision for Thandi.
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