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Bad behaviour scuppers daughter’s inheritance claim

1st December, 2014

The recently reported case of Wright v Waters provides an example of how bad behaviour can impact claims brought by disappointed beneficiaries.

The last will of Mary Waters made no provision for her daughter Patricia Wright or for her children and grandchildren. Instead, almost the entire estate worth £138,000 was left to the son of Mary Waters, David Waters and his wife and children.

Patricia Wright brought two claims against her late mother’s estate. The first was a claim for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975. In support of the claim, Patricia Wright highlighted that she has helped in her mother’s shop, was in serious ill health and was in financial difficulty. The second claim was based on proprietary estoppel. Patricia Wright’s argument was that her parents (who were shopkeepers) had promised her an inheritance and that as a result of this promise she had provided them with unpaid labour as a young woman.

In rejecting the first claim, the judge was heavily swayed by a letter that Patricia Wright had written to her mother formally disowning her and wishing her dead. This had been followed by nine years of refusing to communicate. In addition Mary Waters had passed £10,000 to her daughter to invest on her behalf which Patricia Wright had later refused to return, insisting that it had been a gift.

In rejecting the second claim, the judge made it clear that there was insufficient evidence of clear representations supposedly made by Patricia Wright’s parents that she would receive an inheritance that Patricia Wright could have been expected to have relied upon.

The judge concluded that Patricia Wright’s behaviour outweighed all of the factors in her favour and that looking at the situation objectively, it had been reasonable for Mary Waters to make a will that excluded her daughter.

For more information on this please contact James Wallace on 01244 405588 or email [email protected]

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