Lord Bath, who passed away in March 2020 from COVID-19, has left his entire £23m estate to his wife of 50 years, leaving all 74 of his mistresses out of his will entirely.
This means that the mistresses, or as Lord Bath referred to them, his "wifelets", now stand to receive nothing under his will, despite the fact that some of the wifelets reportedly lived in cottages on his Wiltshire estate and that some of the affairs lasted for a considerable length of time.
From a legal perspective, it is entirely possible that that this situation could lead to one or more of the wifelets challenging the will. The Inheritance (Provision for Dependents) Act 1975 ('the Act') allows for people within certain categories of relationship to the deceased to challenge the deceased's will on the basis that it failed to make "reasonable financial provision" for them.
One such category of relationship are individuals who were being financially maintained by the deceased immediately before their death. Given that some of the mistresses were reportedly living in cottages on Lord Bath's estate, a Judge may consider that Lord Bath was financially maintaining some of them, provided they were living there at the time of his death. It is also possible that he may have maintained his wifelets in other ways, such as by making monthly maintenance payments.
Another category of individuals who are eligible to make a claim under the Act are children of the deceased. If any children resulted from Lord Bath's extra-marital affairs then they may plausibly have a claim under the Act.
However, falling within one of the prescribed categories of relationship is not in itself enough to give rise to a claim under the Act. The Court must decide whether, in all the circumstances of the case, the deceased made "reasonable financial provision" for the claimant. There is no prescriptive figure for what amount of financial provision is considered "reasonable" and the Court will have regard to a number of factors in considering what is reasonable, including the financial needs and resources of the beneficiaries and the claimant, the size and nature of the estate and the conduct of the claimant towards the deceased during his or her lifetime.
As a result of this, the prospects of success of claims made under the Act are often uncertain and disinherited individuals should consider their position carefully before issuing a claim, as there could be costly consequences of issuing a misguided claim.
It is, therefore, essential to seek independent legal advice before issuing a claim under the Act. Our litigation department possess several years of experience in dealing with complex, high-value claims under the Act and other disputes involving wills and estates, and our skilled practitioners combine technical knowledge with the ability to give clear, practical, and outcome-focused advice.
To find out more or discuss your individual circumstances in further detail, contact us on 01603 693500 or email us using the 'Make an Enquiry' form on our website.
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*This article is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or other professional advice.