Lord Bath ‘Wifelet’ excluded in Will. Is that the end?
It was recently reported that Trudi Juggernauth-Sharma, one of Lord Bath's 'Wifelets', claims she is being ousted out of Longleat Estate her home since 1998, after discovering she has been excluded from his Will. The 87 year old Lord Bath, who owned Longleat Safari Park, died of Covid in April last year leaving a legacy of £14.4 million pounds.
It is understood the eccentric aristocrat failed to provide for any of his "Wifelets" in his Will and instead left most of his fortune to his wife Anna (77) and his three children.
No doubt the value of the Estate makes this case unique, but the circumstances are not.
No doubt Ms Juggernauth-Sharma may seek some protection under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Under the Act the Court does have power to vary the terms of the Will where "reasonable financial provision" has not been made for limited categories of persons. This includes qualifying cohabitees (i.e. living with the deceased a couple for at least two years immediately before death).
So what is "reasonable financial provision"? The Act defines this as what "would be reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for the Applicant to receive for his/her maintenance".
To decide what is appropriate the Court must consider:
- The Claimant's financial circumstances.
- The financial resources and needs of any other Applicant.
- The financial resources and needs of the beneficiaries named under the Will.
- The obligations and responsibility the deceased owed the Claimant.
- The size and nature of the Estate, and
- Any disabilities.
The breadth of the circumstances to consider demonstrate that the Court's discretion in this area is very wide. Such discretion, in addition to a lack of consistent guidance as to what weight should be given to each factor, means the outcome of a claim under the Act for these Applicants is far from predictable. These might not necessarily be an award that the Applicant has asked for but it will be based on what the Court believes would provide an Applicant with the reasonable financial provision.
Because of this wide ranging discretion it makes it so important to get legal advice as soon as possible for the vulnerable party. Opening up these claims as soon as possible gives the parties the best chance to work towards a resolution.
Contact Enoch Evans LLP on 01922 720333 (Walsall office) or 0121 3552336 (Sutton Coldfield office).