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  • Jeremy Callander

When a claim on an estate comes out of the blue

Sam* and Liz* came to us following the death of their mother, Helen*.  Their father (and Helen’s husband) had died some years earlier. 

A few weeks after Helen’s funeral, the lawyers for Helen’s estate advised Sam and Liz that a gentleman, Henry*, had come forward claiming that at the time of Helen’s death, he was Helen’s de facto partner.  

Not only was Henry asking for half of the value of Helen’s estate, he also seemed to be claiming that most of Helen’s personal chattels in fact belonged to him.

Sam and Liz had been aware that Helen had a friend called Henry. Moreover, they had been aware that Helen and Henry regularly had meals together, and that Helen often paid Henry to assist her with various household tasks.  

However, they could not understand (much less accept) Henry’s claim that he and Helen were in a qualifying de facto relationship – that is, a relationship that had legal recognition under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976, and which therefore granted property rights to Henry.  

Helen and Henry had never:

  1. Lived together;

  2. Owned assets together;

  3. Managed their finances together; 

  4. Announced or otherwise presented themselves publicly as a couple; or 

  5. Otherwise gone about their lives together in a manner that suggested they envisaged their future as a shared one. 

It didn’t make sense to Sam and Liz. Nor did it seem right or fair, and so consequently, Henry’s claims were extremely upsetting for them.  

Their unhappiness with the situation only increased when they learned that Henry’s lawyers had formally filed an application in the Family Court.

Our role here at Lucas and Lucas was to guide Sam and Liz through the process of opposing Henry’s application.  

This involved generating the Court documents and correspondence, but more importantly and more fundamentally, it involved making sure that Sam and Liz didn’t feel baffled or intimidated by the legal process.  

We helped them to understand the comparative strengths and weaknesses of their case and Henry’s, and we helped them to prepare for a settlement conference – a settlement conference which ultimately produced a positive result for Sam and Liz.

If you have any questions regarding claims against an estate please get in touch.

* All names have been changed.

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